United Way falls short of its goal unclear how far Group is unable to say how much U.S. workers gave

February 01, 1993|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,Staff Writer

The United Way campaign in Central Maryland apparently fell well short of its goal this year, but a change in reporting practices makes it difficult to determine just how poorly the fund-raising drive fared.

The four-month campaign, which officially ended yesterday, will not disclose the amount of money contributed by federal workers, at the federal government's request, said Kim Scheeler, vice president for resource development at United Way of Central Maryland.

Instead, the campaign has announced that it raised a total of $31.3 million from private sector employees, state and local government workers, corporations and foundations.

The change makes it difficult to compare 1992 to 1991, when United Way raised a record $39 million, including federal employees' contributions. But without counting federal employees' donations, the 1991 campaign still raised $34.5 million -- about 10 percent more than the $31.3 million this year.

If federal employees' giving also dropped off at about the same rate, the Central Maryland campaign for 1992 would rank among the least successful in the nation. According to the agency's own survey of 26 campaigns, fund-raising results ranged from a 9.5 percent decrease in contributions in Cleveland to a 10.3 percent increase in Orlando, Fla.

Even if federal workers managed to give as much as they did in 1991, the campaign still would have fallen almost $4 million short of its goal. Mr. Scheeler would not compare federal employees' giving last year with 1991.

Mr. Scheeler blamed the sluggish economy, which has cost thousands of jobs in the Baltimore metropolitan area, for the decline in contributions.

"There were less people working and less people giving," he said. "I've seen a figure of 46,000 jobs lost in the area."

Last year, polls indicated that some people might not give to United Way because of a scandal involving William Aramony, chairman for the trade association that serves United Way chapters nationwide. Mr. Aramony was forced to resign after revelations about his salary and lavish perquisites, such as travel on the Concorde and stays in expensive hotels.

But officials contended that the Aramony affair was not an issue here, except for people who were already determined not to give to United Way.

Mr. Scheeler said there should be less emphasis on comparing one year to the next.

"In actuality, we started out with zero and ended up with $31.3 million," Mr. Scheeler said. "Everybody needs to feel good about that."

While overall donations were down, several companies saw significant increases. For example, employee giving was up 19.9 percent at the Bethlehem Steel shipyard, and it increased 26.1 percent at PHH Corp., whose chief executive officer, Robert D. Kunisch, served as co-chairman for the United Way campaign.

Alex. Brown & Sons raised $566,914, a 121 percent increase in employee and corporate gifts, earning the firm a special award from United Way.

But the 300 agencies that count on United Way funds are worried that their grants will be reduced this year, affecting services as varied as homeless shelters and scout troops.

"Yes, we expect it to be lower," said Elaine R. Fisher of Parents Anonymous, a child abuse prevention program. "Do we have plans to make up the difference? No. It's not as if there's more grants available out there in the government sector. We can get out there and try, but there isn't a lot of money available."

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