United Way gears for change

Craig Chancellor
Craig Chancellor

Todd Cohen

MORRISVILLE, N.C. — United Way is adapting to change in the region and to tough times in the charitable marketplace.

In the wake of an annual fund drive last fall that fell $1.5 million short of its goal and $2 million short of the total it raised the previous year, United Way has cut its operating budget by 10 percent and invested nine percent fewer dollars in its 79 partner agencies.

In a process begun long before the recession began last year, United Way also has tied its investment in its partner agencies to local priority needs in Durham, Orange and Wake counties.

And to reflect the scope of its work and of those who give, advocate and volunteer in the region, the organization has changed its name from Triangle United Way to United Way of the Greater Triangle.

“It’s more reflective of what we’re doing in the region, and what the region looks like,” says Craig Chancellor, United Way president and CEO.

United Way also expects within a year or two to merge with one or more local United Ways in counties adjacent to the three counties it now serves.

While United Way has been working for several years to better target its funding to priority needs, the recession has had a big impact on demand for basic health and human services.

“Demand for services is dramatically increased,” Chancellor says.

Angie Welsh, senior vice president for resource investment at United Way, say partner agencies that address emergency needs like assistance for food, utilities, rent and child-care subsidies are seeing a big spike in demand.

Partner agencies also face cuts or the fear of cuts from other funding sources, including local counties, the state, foundations and individual givers, Welsh says.

The John Rex Endowment, for example, has shifted the focus of its funding to capacity-building grants from direct-service grants, she says.

This fall’s fund drive, chaired by John Stallings, regional president for SunTrust Bank for Central Carolina, will focus on recruiting new business supporters and individual givers who make contributions of $1,200 or more.

Last year, when the annual drive raised $17 million, including $10.25 million for United Way’s general fund, gifts at that level totaled over $4.8 million.

While United Way’s board will not set a goal until late August, Stallings has named a cabinet to drive the overall campaign, and the campaign chairs in Durham, Orange and Wake counties have named local cabinets.

Solicitation for the drive began with a breakfast in late May at RTI International hosted by Victoria Haynes, its president and CEO, that attracted CEOs of 85 local companies.

“The conversation so far has been a goal that is meaningful to this community but that also is attainable,” Chancellor says.

United Way now is tying its funding to “action plans” for each county, with each plan spelling out more than dozen “results” United Way programs should achieve across four to five broad categories, including income, education, health, safety and, in Wake County, basic needs.

“It’s really all about knowing what the real priorities are in a county, and making sure our investments are tracking with the priorities in the county,” Chancellor says. “Our programs are having success in working with people. It’s not all gloom and doom.”

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