Greensboro United Way targets results

Keith Barsuhn
Keith Barsuhn

Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. – At an after-school program that is run by Communities in Schools of Greater Greensboro and funded by United Way of Greater Greensboro, and that works with  220 high-school students a year who are failing in school and getting into trouble, 98 percent of the students graduate on time.

And at a program run by Salvation Army of Greensboro and funded by United Way that provides apartment living and support services for homeless people, 90 percent of the individuals and families participating have been able to remain in their apartments for over six months, giving them what is believed to be a great chance of breaking the cycle of homelessness.

As United Way begins its annual fundraising campaign to support roughly 65 health-and-human-service programs at its 30 partner agencies, it is counting on those kinds of results to persuade donors to dig deeper and give more in the face of a troubled economy and rising demand for services.

Calls from Greensboro to United Way’s 2-1-1 line for community health-and-human-services resources, for example, have increased 16 percent from last year.

“When you put your money with us, we understand how to funnel those funds to top-rate programs,” says Keith Barsuhn, United Way president and CEO. “We also understand the need in the community so we can ensure the funds go to programs that best meet those needs.”

Chaired by Mike Bumpass, president and CEO of First Point Resources and the Guilford Merchants Association, the campaign has a goal of $11.2 million, compared to the $11.5 million United Way raised last year, when it fell $1 million short of its goal and the total raised the previous year.

Compounding last year’s decline in giving was a drop in the rate at which United Way collected campaign pledges – to 95 percent from 97 percent the previous year – reducing the total collected by $100,000.

Still, based on funds raised in last year’s campaign, United Way this year distributed $7.3 million to its partner agencies, down $700,000 from the previous year.

United Way was able to limit the reduction in funds it distributed because, while dollars it raised in the campaign fell 8 percent, it reduced its operating budget 13 percent.

That included the elimination of two positions on the staff, which now totals 25 positions.

United Way also has frozen pay for two straight years, reduced health benefits and, with advice from Cleveland consulting firm Telesys, consolidated and renegotiated its telecommunications contracts, saving about $20,000, or 38 percent of its telecom budget.

Telesys, a firm that advised United Way in Canton, Ohio, when Barsuhn worked there, now is advising some of the organization’s partner agencies in Greensboro, he says.

A key focus of this year’s campaign will be on major donors, or those giving $1,000 or more.

Over 1,600 donors last year made contributions ranging from $1,000 to $9,999 for a total of $2.5 million, or 20 percent of the campaign, an effort that this year will be chaired by Linda Brady, chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

And 147 donors last year made contributions of $10,000 or more for a total of $2.3 million.

This year that “Tocqueville Society” effort will be split, with Dan McGinn, a partner at law firm Brooks Pierce, chairing the overall effort, and Ann Zuraw, a wealth advisor at Compass Financial Partners, chairing the effort to raise gifts at that level from women.

United Way this year will again offer a “Caring Card” program it launched last year that recruited roughly 40 merchants to offer year-round discounts to donors who gave $120 or more.

That effort last year attracted 9,390 donors who gave at that level, up from 7,548 in 2008

Ultimately, Barsuhn says, the campaign is about engaging donors by showing United Way’s impact and “building on what’s working.”

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