Health charities’ drive targets corporations

Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Since March, an official for a national federation of health charities has been talking to corporations in Charlotte, trying to persuade them to let it be part of their annual workplace-giving campaigns.

So far, Virginia-based Community Health Charities has not had any takers, but Dave Griffiths, its Louisville-based director of corporate development for the mid-South, says at least three companies are continuing to talk about adding the federation to their workplace campaigns next year.

“It’s a long process to add another federation or another campaign,” he says. “They are open to conversations about adding us in 2009.”

With 36 affiliate offices throughout the United States, Community Health Charities last year raised $70 million for 51 national charities and for roughly 1,200 statewide charities in those states, including 37 in North Carolina, seven of which are based in Charlotte.

Cracking a new market like Charlotte can be tough, Griffiths says, because employers often are “concerned about how it would affect United Way giving.”

But adding the federation to a company’s workplace campaign, he says, can increase the number of employees who give and the total dollars they give.

“Studies have shown that when you add more choices to the employee campaign, giving will go up,” he says.

“We want employers to understand it’s not just a United Way campaign,” he says. “It’s an employee-giving campaign. They should be encouraged to embrace more choices.”

He says health agencies for which the federation raises money, such as Easter Seals UCP North Carolina, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, are not members of United Way.

Community Health Charities does have a partnership with Triangle United Way in the Raleigh-Durham area.

After the separate United Way affiliates in Durham, Orange and Wake counties merged 10 years ago, the consolidated group invited Community Health Charities to participate in the annual workplace campaign it held at local employers, Griffiths says.

In 2001, Community Health Charities raised $960,000 through that partnership, he says.

But the next year, he says, United Way did not list the federation as part of the brochure distributed to corporate employees for workplace campaigns but instead included information about it in a separate insert.

That year, giving to the federation through the United Way partnership fell to $250,000, and it since has averaged $175,000 to $225,000 a year.

In addition to raising money for health charities, he says, the federation also provides free educational programs at companies that sponsor workplace campaigns. The programs are designed to help employees improve their overall health and well-being.

This fall, after conclusion of the annual drive for United Way of Central Carolinas, Griffiths says, Community Health Charities plans to host a breakfast or lunch for CEOs and corporate-giving officers at Charlotte corporations.

“We encourage people to embrace additional choices for their employees for their workplace giving,” Griffiths says.

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