Big gifts fuel growth in Charlotte drive

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On the heels of its biggest annual fund drive ever, United Way of Central Carolinas is looking for ways to be even more effective in securing support for community causes.

United Way officials spent a week in March in an intensive, data-driven analysis of its fund drives over the past five years.

The analysis, developed by United Way of America, was designed to examine all aspects of the drive, from strategies and tactics to numbers, sizes and sources of gifts, and types of donors.

It also looked at growth in the population and business sector, and community perceptions about United Way, “determining if we are keeping pace with growth of the community, says Diane Wright, senior vice president for resource development.

The idea is to develop strategies and tactics for the 2006 drive and beyond, and get more people involved in United Way, Wright says.

Chaired by Graham Denton, president of the Charlotte market area for Bank of America, the 2005 drive raised just over $41 million, 4.8 percent more than the previous year and exceeding $40 million for the first time.

A big focus of the drive was on individuals giving $1,000 or more, and the strategy paid off.

Gifts that size accounted for 56 percent of the drive, up from 53 percent a year earlier.

The drive received $13.1 million from 7,500 “leadership” donors giving $1,000 to $9,999, and $9.6 million from 771 “Tocqueville” donors giving $10,000 or more, with the average Tocqueville gift totaling $12,500.

The drive showed growth in the number of donors making those larger gifts, and in the average size of those gifts, Wright says.

That growth resulted from continuing focus on women, African-American leaders and on leaders age 40 and younger, getting them involved in volunteer projects and asking them personally for gifts.

United Way also encouraged employers that ran workplace campaigns to run separate leadership campaigns to encourage some employees to make larger gifts.

That push resulted in separate leadership campaigns at three companies, including accounting firm Cherry, Bekaert & Holland, security check-printer Clarke American and at Hand Held Products.

And Coca-Cola Bottling Co., Piedmont Natural Gas and Lance contributed a total of $250,000 to match gifts of $1,000 or more.

United Way also enlisted 37 companies to run workplace campaigns for the first time.

Those companies generated a total of $107,000 in donations, and brought the number of workplace campaigns to 2,187.

To help make those campaigns more effective, Wright says, United Way took companies’ employees on tours of its partner agencies to show the impact of donations.

It also spent a day last July training company employees who volunteered to work as coordinators of their workplace campaigns.

An active communications strategy also was key to the drive, says Wright.

United Way this year also plans to focus more on increasing the number of donors giving $25,000 or more.

In 2005, 51 donors giving at that level contributed a total of over $2 million, up from 44 donors at that level the previous year who gave a total of over $1.7 million.

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