Leaner United Way fundraising all year

Jane McIntyre
Jane McIntyre

Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In the past 18 months, United Way of Central Carolinas has reduced its annual operating budget to less than $6.4 million from nearly $12 million, cut its staff to 48 employees from 97, and trimmed its board of directors to 22 members from 67, retaining only eight members from the previous board.

Those are among 47 changes United Way has instituted in the wake of an executive compensation scandal that, combined with the recession, hammered the organization’s annual fundraising campaign two years ago, when it fell $2.6 million short of its $22.7 million goal.

Another big change has been to transform the annual campaign to a year-long fundraising effort, a move its executive director says is critical to create a new culture of giving in the community and at United Way.

“You begin to build a year-round relationship, with both individual donors and companies,” says Jane McIntyre, who joined United Way as executive director in August 2009. “So it changes how you do business. It’s not just about a workplace campaign; it’s, ‘How do we build that relationship year-round?'”

Big gifts in the final days of last year’s campaign helped it exceed the total raised in 2008 by $2.8 million.

Chaired by Curt Fochtmann, office managing partner for Ernst & Young, this year’s campaign aims to raise at least as much as last year, says McIntyre.

To do that, she says, United Way will need to make up for big one-time gifts it received in its last campaign, including a $1 million challenge grant from The Leon Levine Foundation and $500,000 from Bank of America.

The most recent campaign total also included over $800,000 United Way transferred from its operating budget after cutting costs, and roughly $300,000 it received as a result of increasing the rate at which it collected pledges from donors.

Gifts totaling $1,000 or more generated $10.7 million, or 36 percent of the campaign, with gifts of $1,000 to $9,999 totaling $7.2 million and gifts of $10,000 or more totaling nearly $3.6 million.

United Way is counting on changes it has made to help it raise the funds it needs to help its 90 partner agencies cope with rising demand for services, McIntyre says.

They have told us the funding United Way gives them is vital,” she says. “It is one of the few sources of sustainable income they have left.”

And with more people unemployed and underemployed, partner agencies low on reserves, and federal stimulus funding either ending or causing cash-flow problems at agencies that get those funds only as reimbursement for dollars already spent, she says, agencies that “were already under strain” now are “under greater strain.”

This year’s campaign, which will focus on raising unrestricted dollars for United Way, will give donors four options to support causes they care about, include health and mental health, children and youth, and housing and stability, all by giving to its general “community care fund,” and a special fund for emergency needs.

And organizations and individuals in the community can expect ongoing efforts by United Way to engage them in its work, McIntyre says.

Throughout the year, for example, United Way has enlisted employees at its corporate supporters to volunteer at its partner agencies, with nearly 2,400 volunteers giving nearly 8,400 hours worth nearly $170,000 to the community.

It also has worked with corporations to analyze giving patterns among their employees and identify those with the potential to give more, and will be sending companies regular reports about United Way, the agencies it supports and the needs it addresses.

United Way, for example, has team up with the Urban Institute at UNC-Charlotte, to assess community needs in five counties, a study that will shared with the community next spring.

And it will be working harder to thank its donors personally and more often.

The fundraising campaign “never really stopped,” McIntyre says. “We really have moved to 365 days a year.”

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