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Forsyth United Way upbeat, targets impact

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By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Boosted by rebounds in several business sectors that offset a $700,000 loss in several others, United Way of Forsyth County raised nearly $16.3 million in it annual fund drive last year, just exceeding the total it raised a year earlier.

“The economy is getting better and it’s showing up in philanthropy,” says Ron Drago, president and CEO.

Now, United Way has set new priorities for investing the funds it raises, and soon will establish benchmarks and outcomes that it will ask its partner agencies to use to show their impact and progress.

And a pro-bono marketing initiative, launched three years ago in Forsyth County and shared last year among United Ways serving seven counties, will expand this year to include Charlotte and the Triangle – and may be adopted by United Way of America.

Chaired by Edwin L. Welch Jr., president I.L. Long Construction Co., the 2005 drive showed growth for the first time in years in some business sectors, including manufacturing and home-grown companies, says Drago.

United Way of North Carolina recently recognized Welch as volunteer of the year among the state’s larger United Ways.

The workplace campaign at B/E Aerospace, a maker of airline seats, for example, grew 52 percent to $94,555.

And marking a turnaround from big layoffs two years ago and its merger with Brown and Williamson, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. posted a an increase of just over $194,000 in its campaign, or 13.3 percent.

Other business sectors also increased their giving.

Giving by the real estate industry grew $30,000, or 36 percent, while giving by the construction industry grew $55,000, or 13 percent.

“You won’t do well with real estate people and construction people if they’re not building and selling,” Drago says. “We take that to be not only a good result, but a pretty good indicator that things are moving in the right direction.”

Also posting increases in giving were Forsyth Medical Center, up 9.6 percent from a year earlier, to $818,099, and United Way’s 34 partner agencies, up 11 percent to $297,387.

“We’re a United Way and we really expect to lead by example,” Drago says.

The drive also showed an increase in the number of donors making larger gifts.

Thirty-eight hundred donors giving $1,000 or more accounted for 45 percent of the campaign, up 1 percentage point from the previous year.

That included 164 donors giving $10,000 or more, for a total of $2.5 million, an increase of 16 donors at that level.

The new investment process is “intended to establish a community agenda in terms of needs we want to address and outcomes we want to achieve over time,” Drago says. “It puts out there some outcome goals, to make sure we move the needle.”
Based on a new set of 10 community-need priorities such as reducing infant mortality and domestic violence, United Way is identifying existing benchmarks and setting outcome goals that it will ask partner agencies to use in seeking United Way support.

United Way of Central Carolinas in Charlotte and Triangle United Way in Research Triangle Park both plan to participate in the joint marketing program developed by Greensboro communications firm CoyneBeahmShouse for eight local United Ways, says John Conrad, communications director for United Way of Forsyth County.

And United Way of America is considering offering the program to 1,400 local United Ways throughout the United States, he says.

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