By Todd Cohen
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Formed in 1986 in the living room of a private home by a group of white men whose friends were dying of HIV/AIDS, the Triad Health Project initially had the mission of taking care of people who may have lacked insurance covering the disease.
“The stigma was huge,” says Addison Ore, the group’s executive director. “People were being abandoned by their families and had no one to take care of them in their final days.”
Today, with a staff of 22 people and a core of roughly 100 volunteers, the Health Project each year serves nearly 500 of the more than 1,300 people in Guilford County infected with the disease.
Yet while the number of clients remains stable, Ore says, the group adds roughly 15 new clients a month.
“People die,” she says.
The nonprofit, with offices in Greensboro and High Point, provides emotional and practical support to people living with HIV/AIDS.
It does not provide direct medical services but does provide direct services such as psychological counseling, help in navigating the maze of assistance available for services such as housing or substance-abuse treatment, and dealing with other needs such as child-care referrals.
And it offers prevention services such as health fairs, distributing condoms,and HIV testing at local gay bars.
But budgetary limits and a heavy reliance on grants keep it from adding new programs, Ore says.
Now, as it approaches its 20th anniversary, the Health Project is looking to cultivate its donors and former board members to make larger gifts.
The group funds 60 percent of its annual $1.2 million budget through grants such as federal Ryan White Care Act funds, and contracts with agencies like the Guilford County Health Department, she says.
That funding includes $133,000 from United Way of Greater Greensboro and $47,000 from United Way of Greater High Point, together accounting for 15 percent of its budget.
The Health Project traditionally has counted two big special events for another 18 percent of its budget, and on individual contributions averaging $50 to $100 for another 21 percent.
Those events include “Dining for Friends,” a series of dinners now in its 16th year that this past June raised $135,000, and its Winter Walk for AIDS, which will be held for the 14th year on Dec. 4th.
The walk, which begins and ends at Memorial Stadium, last year attracted about 3,000 people and raised over $100,000, the most ever.
Now, based on its work with a professional adviser, the Health Project is raising the sights for its annual fundraising.
“We’ve never really treated the donor who gives us $20,000 a year any differently than the donor who comes to our Winter Walk and gives $50,” Ore says. “They both get a thank-you note.”
The focus of the new strategy will be cultivating and soliciting donors for its annual fund, which consists of a direct-mail campaign each spring and fall.
In particular, the development effort will look to bring former board members “back to the fold,” Ore says, and will analyze donors’ giving history to identify those with the potential to make larger gifts.
Headed by Mike Baker, development director, the effort also will include creating special categories of recognition for larger donors.
With a kickoff event tentatively scheduled for early next year, the Health Project aims to raise $125,000 in additional funds its first year, Ore says.
“This is a whole paradigm shift for this agency,” Ore says, “to really look seriously at major donors and treat them as major donors and cultivate them as major donors.”