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Greensboro United Way eyes big gifts

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By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Asking local donors to dig deeper to serve local Gulf Coast evacuees while also addressing ongoing critical community needs, United Way of Greater Greensboro has created an emergency Katrina fund on the eve of kicking off its annual fundraising drive.

“There is a need to provide ongoing care for people who live in our community,” says Neil Belenky, United Way president, adding that local efforts to serve evacuees are funded with dollars contributed annually to the local United Way

“And that’s just the beginning,” he says. “That infrastructure of care to a large extent is coming from what the community does to support itself. Without that, we don’t have the ability, not only to care for ourselves, but to care for evacuees.”

The Jefferson-Pilot Foundation is making the inaugural gift to the new United Way Operation Greensboro Cares fund, donating part of $100,000 it is giving to local relief efforts in the three main locations in which the company has employees.

The new fund also has received two pledges of $100,000 each, Belenky says.

United Way also has made emergency grants of $50,000 to the local chapter of the Red Cross, and $14,000 to the Volunteer Center of Greensboro, and estimates the cost of local needs could top $500,000.

And City Manager Mitchell Johnson has asked United Way to take the lead role in coordinating local efforts to help evacuees’ assimilation into the community, with more than 300 already in the area, and with more than 2,000 people having already called the Volunteer Center offering to help.

Belenky says United Way has teamed up with United Way of Greater High Point in the local assimilation effort.

United Way has taken those efforts at the same time it is asking the community to contribute to its annual fundraising drive, which began Sept. 20.

After exceeding its fundraising goal last year for the first time in four years, United Way is counting on donors who make big gifts to keep up its momentum.

United Way aims to raise $13.1 million for the drive, which raised just over $13 million last year.

Gifts of $1,000 or more accounted for 38 percent of funds raised in that drive, up from 18 percent in 1990, when Belenky joined the local United Way.

Those gifts continue to represent the biggest area of growth for United Way fundraising, he says.

“It’s an area where we’ve been able to successfully target and reach people,” he says. “It’s a smaller group. It’s easier to maintain a year-round relationship.”

Compared to the larger number of individuals who give through the workplace, he says, people who make larger gifts are more likely to provide information United Way can use to keep donors informed about the impact their dollars have on meeting critical community needs.

The drive, chaired by Meg Sternberg, who retired in July as vice president for Ovations, a UnitedHealth Group company, aims this year to secure more gifts of $10,000 or more through a matching program like one last year that generated 20 new donors at that level.

The program, which last year raised $100,000 from corporations, foundations and individuals to match gifts of $5,000 if donors agreed to give $10,000 this year, aims to raise another $75,000 to $100,000 in the current campaign to match similar gifts.

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