By Todd Cohen
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Of the roughly 6,000 children born in Guilford County each year, United Way of Greater Greensboro says, 1,000 are at risk of neglect or abuse.
Three years ago, to better connect the families of those children with programs addressing their health-and-human-service needs, United Way launched Thriving at Three, an initiative that now serves 120 families.
Thriving at Three, along with a program known as Success at School that United Way launched in 2001, both were developed and have been funded by women who are members of a United Way effort to promote giving by women.
That effort, launched in 1998, has generated nearly $6.7 million in local donations of $10,000 or more, and served as a model for over 100 similar United Way programs throughout the U.S. that have spurred $1 billion in women’s giving.
Women have “a tradition of service,” says Mary Hagan, chair of Tocqueville Women’s Leadership. “Now we’re pooling our resources and our intellect and making a difference, making some strategic choices that impact our community in major ways.”
Kate Weaver, vice president for major gifts at United Way of Greater Greensboro, says the effort “celebrates and encourages women to lead, to serve on boards, to be on leadership committees.”
Based on an idea from local business executive Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, who spearheaded development of the initiative, Greensboro’s United Way in 1998 formed Tocqueville Women’s Leadership to recognize women who give $10,000 or more to United Way’s annual fund drive.
Founder and CEO of Pace Communications, McElveen-Hunter is board chair for the American Red Cross AND former U.S. ambassador to Finland.
In 2007, based on the women’s Tocqueville program, United Way launched a separate “Women’s Leadership” program to recognize women who give $1,000 to $9,999 to the drive.
While results of this year’s drive are not complete, it already has generated $2.2 million in gifts of $10,000 or more, including $735,000 from 70 women.
The drive also has generated gifts from another 75 women giving $1,000 to $9,999.
And in 2008, to celebrate its 10th anniversary, Tocqueville Women’s Leadership aims to raise $1 million, while Women’s Leadership aims to double its membership to 150 women.
Women’s Leadership also aims to increase to 11 from four this year the number of volunteer activities it sponsors for its members.
The local effort has produced offspring throughout the United States: In 2001, based on the Greensboro initiative, United Way of America launched its own National Women’s Leadership Council.
Since then, local United Ways throughout the United States have formed 109 women’s leadership councils, societies and groups.
The vision for Tocqueville Women’s Leadership at United Way of Greater Greensboro is that members will create relationships to mentor women who are members of Women’s Leadership, Weaver says.
Giving not just money but also their time, know-how and leadership, women are doing good in many ways to help shape the way United Way addresses priority community needs, participants say.
Johnnetta Cole, former president of Bennett College in Greensboro and former board chair for United Way of America, for example, led the effort at United Way of Greater Greensboro to create a program to celebrate giving by African Americans, Weaver says.
And after spearheading the creation of Thriving at Three and Success at School, and continuing to fund those programs, women are volunteering for both efforts, working in the schools and with professional caregivers.
United Way also sponsors networking events for women, including a networking get-together Women’s Leadership will sponsor Jan. 21 at The Press, a wine restaurant and bar.
“I feel so attached to these women,” says Sue D. White, president of Donathan Properties and a member of Tocqueville Women’s Leadership at Greensboro’s United Way, and the National Women’s Leadership Council at United Way of America. “We can call each other and say, ‘There’s a need in the community; let’s do something about it.”
Hagan says women simply are making a difference.
“We deliver real change,” she says.