Greensboro United Way upbeat on drive

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Reflecting a turnaround in the local economy, United Way of Greater Greensboro aims to raise $13 million in its annual drive this year, an increase over the adjusted total raised last year.

United Way no longer will handle the combined campaign for state employees, most of whose contributions were transferred outside the community, so United Way has revised the total its drive raised last year to $12.8 million.

While last year’s total was down from a peak of $14.9 million United Way raised in 2000, donors this year should be giving more in the face of an economic upswing, says Neil Belenky, president.

“Optimism has a great deal to do with giving,” he says.

Helping to offset the loss of an estimated 10,000 jobs in recent years, many of them in the high-wage manufacturing sector, Belenky says, has been the gain of jobs in the fast-growing service sector, plus some big new manufacturing operations.

HondaJet will add hundreds of jobs when it moves its corporate headquarters to the region, for example, while TIMCO Aviation Services, a refurbisher of large airplanes, has posted a strong recovery and now employs roughly 1,400 local workers, Belinky says.

And when it opens, likely in 2009, a new FedEx hub is expected initially to employ 1,000 to 2,000 workers, and already is generating other new business in the region, he says.

Chaired by Dale Hall, Triad market president for Bank of America, the drive will focus on larger gifts and on a special initiative to prepare children by age three to be ready developmentally for school.

United Way aims to raise $200,000 from individuals, corporations and foundations to match gifts from individuals who give $1,000 to $9,999, and another $200,000 to match gifts from donors who agree to increase their giving to $10,000 over two years.

A pool of funds last year matched, dollar for dollar, over $300,000 in new gifts at those levels.

Last year, 2,290 donors giving $1,000 or more contributed a total of $3 million, while 154 donors giving $10,000 or more contributed $2.2 million, with all those gifts representing 60 percent of the total raised.

“As the economy shifts from a manufacturing economy to more of a service, professional and high-tech economy, we’ve generally seen opportunities in stimulating giving at that level,” Belenky says.

He says United Way has modeled its effort to raise funds to match larger gifts on similar programs at United Way of Forsyth County and United Way of Central Carolinas in Charlotte.

To fund a three-year public awareness campaign for “Thriving at Three,” an effort to intervene with all parents in the community at the birth of their children and provide support so they are developmentally ready by age three to begin school, United Way aims to raise $210,000 a year as part of its annual drive this year and each of the next two years.

The effort reflects United Way’s twin goals of ensuring the community has a “network of care” that addresses immediate needs, while also taking on the root causes of critical problems, Belenky says.

The state employees combined campaign, previously managed by United Way of Greater Greensboro, will be run starting this year by the state.

Last year, that campaign raised roughly $430,000, of which $300,000 was raised for charities outside United Way or outside the community.

For this year’s drive, Belenky says, he will recommend the board set a goal based on the total raised last year, minus funds raised in the state employee campaign that did not benefit local United Way agencies, or a revised total of $12.8 million.

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