Cape Fear United Way focuses on individuals

Melissa Boehling
Melissa Boehling

Julia Vail

WILMINGTON, N.C. – As the economy continues to worsen, Cape Fear Area United Way is working to get its message out in preparation for its upcoming annual campaign, which kicks off Sept. 25.

United Way traditionally has focused on workplace giving, but the weak economy prompted the affiliate this year to redirect its attention to individual donors, says Melissa Boehling, vice president of resource development for the group.

The goal for this year’s campaign, chaired by Jack Barto, president and CEO of New Hanover Regional Medical Center, totals $2.45 million, up from over $2.3 million raised last year.

Because of the shift in focus this year, volunteer fundraisers will be communicating one-on-one with prospects who share their personal or professional interests.

The new strategy has made the fundraising effort more successful and less awkward, Boehling says.

“When you call someone to have a cup of coffee or see how the family’s doing, people are more comfortable,” she says.

Through phone calls and direct mail, Boehling says, she hopes to get the message out about the organization’s mission.

“If we can educate the public, they’ll really be impressed with our philosophy,” she says.

While Cape Fear Area United Way devotes funds to fixing immediate problems, it also supports initiatives to get at the root of those problems.

“When you work in a hospital, you don’t tell emergency-room patients to wait because the researchers are still working on a cure,” she says. “You address immediate needs while funding programs that are trying to fix the problem.”

United Way, while facilitating the solutions to social problems, also tries to help nonprofits help themselves.

Cape Fear volunteers spent over 700 hours last year reviewing grant applications to identify which agencies needed the most assistance, Boehling says.

“We want to be able to increase their capacity so they can improve what they do,” she says.

United Way funds more than 30 programs in areas such as youth development, emergency services and health care.

In recent years, safety programs have also received special attention.

“We have a big concern about criminal complaints in our area,” Boehling says.

Though she has been with the United Way only since April, she has seven years of fundraising experience with the New Hanover Health Network and the American Red Cross.

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