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Asheville United Way regroups

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Julia Vail

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County reorganized its volunteer efforts in preparation for the Sept. 4 launch of its annual fundraising campaign.

Rather than being grouped randomly, volunteers are organized by industry, says Tracy Buchanan, chief operating officer of CarePartners Health Services and chair of this year’s campaign.

“They know what’s going on in that particular industry,” she says. “They know where the opportunities are.”

The year-round volunteers, grouped by expertise, are able to mobilize and advocate for social change more effectively, says David Bailey, United Way president and CEO.

Armed with more knowledge about the industry and its current trends, he says, volunteers can communicate needs to state and local governments.

United Way is supporting 40 partner agencies this year, two more than last year. Keeping a steady number of programs and partners ensures that needs are met more efficiently, Bailey says.

“Before we bring any new ones in, let’s make sure the ones we’re working with are doing the best they can,” he says.

Some of the programs that will benefit from the United Way campaign will provide child care, support single mothers and give students a safe place to go after school for tutoring and enrichment.

The goal for this year’s campaign is $6,046,000.

Last year’s campaign exceeded its $6 million goal by $22,000.

Asheville United Way is focusing its fundraising efforts on improving leadership giving, which consist of gifts of $1,000 or more and accounted for over half of total contributions last year.

Bailey says he is not overly concerned about the economic slump and its effect on giving, and in fact feels confident that donors will be even more motivated to help.

“I think this will heighten awareness of needs in the community,” he says.

Asheville United Way always has been a strong presence in the area, and has garnered a great deal of trust, Bailey says.

Buchanan says workplace giving may be a challenge for businesses trying to make ends meet in the face of the economic downturn.

“Some of our businesses are really struggling,” she says. “We really have to work to maintain and continue to build those relationships.”

Though campaign members are concerned about the economy’s effect on their donors, they are thinking more about its effect on the people who need the charitable programs United Way supports.

“People who were on the edge before now may be over that edge,” Buchanan says. “We have to rise to the challenge.”

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