By Todd Cohen
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In 1931, its first year, United Way of Central Carolinas raised $139,000.
In its annual drive that kicked off Sept. 8, United Way aims to raise just over $44 million.
That goal, 7.5 percent more than last year and the largest ever for United Way, reflects growing demand for services that are outpacing contributions.
This year, for example, United Way allocated $32.9 million to meet community needs, including $20.1 million for its 97 partner agencies, $2 million less than the agencies requested.
Yet with the local economy growing, local funders and donors should be able to dig deeper to help United Way and its partner agencies address critical local needs, says Michael Baker, chair of the annual drive and Carolinas managing partner for Deloitte & Touche.
“The haves are doing better and the have-nots are doing worse,” he says. “So if the haves have a little extra money, let’s do it, because there are lots of needs.”
The strategy for meeting this year’s goal focuses on expanding and diversifying United Way’s base of donors, says Diane Wright, senior vice president for resource development.
That effort will include reaching out to more companies and employees who have not participated in the past, and encouraging existing donors to make larger gifts.
The drive also will tie United Way’s 75th anniversary, and the impact the organization has had, to its search for new donors and larger gifts.
The 50 largest employers participating in the drive, for example, account for 70 percent of the dollars United Way raises, Wright says.
United Way this year will try to recruit 300 companies, employing at least 100 employees each, that have never run an employee workplace campaign or made a corporate gift.
And only half the employees at larger companies that do run campaigns participate in the drive, Wright syas..
So, to celebrate its anniversary, United Way is asking employees who have not given in the past to give at least $75 this year.
And it is asking employees who gave in the past to increase their contribution this year by $75 or, if they gave $500 in the past, to increase their gift to $750.
And some companies have agreed to match employee gifts of $37.50, bringing the total gift to $75.
“If we could find a way to increase or improve participation a few percentage points, it would make a big difference,” Baker says.
Bank of America and Wachovia also have teamed up to make a $500,000 challenge grant to encourage individual donors to increase the size of their gifts to either e$1,000 or $10,000 over three years.
If an employee agrees to give $500 or $5,000 this year, for example, $750 or $7,500 next year, and $1,000 or $10,000 the third year, the banks’ combined grant will make up the difference between the gifts and either $1,000 or $10,000 this year and next.
Baker says the drive is all about creating a future that improves opportunities for people in need.
“This community would be a better community,” he says, “if we continue to support those organizations that help us all do better.”