CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Demand for services is higher at partner agencies of United Way of Central Carolinas, while the resources they have to deliver those services are lower.
The number of United Way agencies has declined to 90 from 97 two years ago, mainly the result of agencies either merging or shutting down, and the reserve funds at its agencies have shrunk.
Those trends, United Way officials say, are signs of the bleak economy, which also has sent the local unemployment rate to 11 percent and left one in five children under age six living in poverty in the five counties United Way serves.
To help address the region’s health-and-human-service needs, United Way has set a goal of raising $20.5 million in its annual campaign this year, up 3.4 percent from the $19.8 million it raised last year.
To reach that goal, United Way is counting on a communication campaign to help donors better understand priority community needs, the operating challenges its partner agencies face, and the difference they make in the community.
United Way also aims to get more donors and corporations involved in its work, and to thank them more personally and more often for their support.
“We’re trying to be more engaged,” says Jane McIntyre, United Way’s executive director.
United Way last year invested $16.4 million in its partner agencies, but only because it was able to make up a $4 million shortfall, compared to funds it raised in its annual drive, by collecting donor pledges at a rate that was higher than usual; reducing operating costs; receiving a one-time gift from Wells Fargo; and withdrawing $2.4 million from its own reserve fund.
To reach its goal this year, McIntyre says, United Way again will need to overcome an expected $4 million shortfall in funds raised in the campaign.
Communications will be key for the fundraising effort.
United Way will distribute to many donors who gave last year an annual report explaining how their funds were used, while Wells Fargo and other employers will distribute a United Way thank-you video to their employees.
For the second straight year, United Way has mailed to roughly 11,000 donors who gave $100 more last year a thank-you card that includes a coupon for local restaurants owned by FS Food Group,
Twenty-five of its board members and donors will host parties at which United Way officials will thank donors.
United Way also has lined up special events and promotions in partnership with corporations such as Carolina Panthers, Allen Edmonds shoes, Buffalo Wild Wings, Harris Teeter and Belk.
Belk, in partnership with United Way, United Way Young Leaders, and United Way agencies A Child’s Place and Communities in Schools, will donate 2,000 uniforms to six Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools in which at least 75 percent of the students are economically disadvantaged.
The partnership, McIntyre says, reflects “how we work within the community, both with corporations and agencies and, in this case, the school system.”