United Way banks on white-collar efforts

One on one

October 21, 1991

One on One is a weekly feature offering excerpts of interviews 1/2 conducted by The Evening Sun with newsworthy business leaders. James T. Brady is the general chairman of the 1991 United Way campaign. Brady is a managing partner of the Baltimore office of Arthur Andersen & Co., an international accounting and consulting firm. Brady heads a group of 15 local business executives who determined the goal for the current campaign. The group partly based its figuring on a report done by an economic research group at the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.

Q. Are things worse for the United Way campaign this year and if so, what distinguishes this campaign from others?

A.I think what really distinguished this is the white-collar impact of this recession, and that bears directly on the United Way Campaign, because, as you know, this is a workplace campaign. Seventy-five percent of what we raise in the United Way campaign each year comes from employees of companies in the Central Maryland region. So there is no question that this recession probably has a greater impact on the United Way than any of the ones that have preceded it.

Q. If, as you say, the white collars are the backbone of the campaign, do you expect to reach your goal?

A. I don't mean to imply that the white-collar workers will not give. In fact, I've been very encouraged in this campaign by the reaction of people, given the economic situation. The United Way has a very interesting history. In 1982 and 1974, which were recessionary times as well, the United Way did amazingly well in those campaigns, and my read on that is that people who do have jobs, people who are working, recognize full well that the need is greater and that those in need are geometrically worse off than they would be in other circumstances. So I think people step up to the plate in hard times.

Q. Do you think that because white-collar workers are now being affected and may infact have to use some of United Way services, the need and desire is to give more?

A. I think that's an excellent point. I think without question people now see United Way as being more relevant in their lives. One of the things we've tried to do in this campaign is make it very clear that United Way can be very helpful to people in that situation. It is not just a crisis-intervention organization, but deals with a myriad of situations that average people can feel very comfortable accessing.

Q. Why did United Way decide not to pursue another double-digit goal?

A. It just seemed to us as we were planning the campaign that that was a very unrealistic goal. I felt very strongly myself that if I was going to go to the business community, I had to be credible to them. And at times like this to go in and say we are projecting a 10 percent increase in our campaign while those companies are struggling to make a dollar just seemed like a position that I did not want to take. It just didn't seem as if I had been reading the newspaper.

Q. What increase are you going after?

A. We spent a lot of time coming up with our goal for this year and we did one thing which was new in terms of trying to define that goal. We used the economic research group at the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. to do an economic scan for us of the region. And that scan focused on all of the things that were critical to us, primarily employment in the region and what had happened to it in recent times. On the basis of that review, which was sobering I will tell you, we decided that we were going to shoot for a 4 percent increase in this year's campaign. Now let me talk about the 4 percent increase for a moment because one might say, boy, that doesn't sound like much at all. But let me remind everyone of two things. Number one, the national United Way average increase for last year's campaign was 2.2 percent, and the increase in the Central Maryland campaign last year was 3.3 percent. So the 4 percent is not a slam dunk as I like to say. It is one that is going to require a lot of work on our part to achieve, but it is not a goal that we don't have to work real hard to achieve.

Q. What are some of the things that you're going to need to do to get that 4 percent? Are your activities going to be any different?

A. Our emphasis is different this year. This campaign is built on a theme of results and solutions because I have concluded, based on talking to people in the community, that the greatest knowledge need they have is knowledge about how United Way is using the dollars they raise to affect human lives. I started out in this campaign with two assumptions. Number one, people understood the depth and the breadth of the problems in the community.

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