Triangle United Way regrouping

By Todd Cohen

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — After falling short of the goal for its annual fund drive in 2005, and slipping from the total it raised in 2004, Triangle United Way is taking a hard look at its overall strategy for raising and distributing funds to address local health and human-service needs.

United Way’s top fundraiser also has quit, and its CEO has fired three other fundraising officers, or half the fundraising staff.

Now, as it looks ahead to its 2006 drive this fall, United Way needs to focus more attention on securing individual contributions of $10,000 or more, and on building strong relationships with new companies moving into he region, says Craig Chancellor, president and CEO.

And at a planning session later this month, he says, United Way staff and volunteers likely will also focus on retooling the process for distributing funds.

That will include making the allocation process “as objective as possible, maybe more objective than we have it right now,” he says, and divvying up funds based on needs in the region overall.

Currently, once funds are allocated to each county United Way serves based on their relative population, volunteer “cabinets” in each county decide how to distribute its dollars among six priority issues.

Chancellor says one option the planning session might consider for the allocation process, known as “resource investment,” could involve divvying up funds among the six priority issues for the region overall, and then letting volunteer groups assigned to each issue decide how to spend the funds allocated to that issue within the region as a whole.

Chancellor says he hopes to submit any proposed changes to United Way’s board at its monthly meeting scheduled for April 25.

Changes in the fundraising process could affect this fall’s annual drive, Chancellor says, while changes in the allocation process would take effect no sooner than the distribution in 2007 of funds raised this fall.

Angie Welsh, former vice president for resource investment, has been promoted to senior vice president for resource investment, succeeding Linda Tuday, who has retired.

Chancellor says the results of the 2005 drive were not the specific cause of the departures from the fundraising department.

“The changes in resource development are simply a need for new leadership,” he says.

Sarah Smith, who was senior vice president for resource development and joined the organization three years ago, resigned in the wake of the 2005 drive, which raised $10,643,000 in undesignated contributions for United Way’s general “community care fund.”

Cecil Wright, senior vice president for information services, is overseeing the fundraising department on an interim basis, and United Way is conducting a national search for Smith’s successor.

The 2005 drive fell $14,000 short of the total raised in 2004, which had marked the first increase since United Way two years earlier had shifted the focus of its campaign to undesignated giving.

Including contributions earmarked for specific organizations and programs, overall giving in 2005 totaled roughly $18.5 million, flat from a year earlier, says Mark Langford, chief financial officer.

Overall giving has fallen from 2001, as has giving to the community care fund.

Chancellor says the 2005 drive, given the economy and the impact of national disasters like Hurricane Katrina, “did okay” in breaking roughly even with the drive a year earlier.

The drive included $975,000 from 67 donors pledging $10,000 or more, up from $967,000 a year earlier from 70 donors at that level, says Langford.

The Triangle is home to “substantial wealth,” Chancellor says, “and thus there is a lot of potential there, so we need to establish more relationships with people of high net worth.”
And because the region also is attracting new companies, he says, “we want to make sure we have a relationship with as many of those new businesses as possible.”

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