United giving declines

February 10, 1994|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,Sun Staff Writer

Although most of the nation's United Way organizations have rebounded from disastrous 1992 campaigns, the United Way of Central Maryland's recent drive slipped again -- falling to a six-year low.

The 1993 drive ended last month with $27.5 million in pledges, a 3 percent drop from the previous year, local United Way officials announced yesterday. The total was well short of the $31.3 million goal.

Campaign officials attributed the results to continued job losses among major companies. For example, the 50 largest companies participating in the campaign had shed 6,000 jobs since the previous campaign.

"While the total is slightly down from last year, we nonetheless think it's an excellent result," campaign chairman John A. Saxton said before a breakfast celebration at the Omni Inner Harbor Hotel, where volunteers dined in a "Wizard of Oz" wonderland, complete with a yellow brick road.

Marco K. Merrick, a state Department of Economic and Employment Development spokesman, said Maryland did continue to lose jobs through the first eight months of 1993. A fall turnaround may have been too late to help the United Way campaign.

The campaign's $31.3 million goal was about the same amount raised in 1991, when local donations began to level off after years of large increases. The 1992 campaign raised only $28.4 million, a 9 percent drop and one of the steepest declines nationwide.

That year, the United Way of Central Maryland, like United Ways everywhere, was hit by the double punch of a weak economy and the fallout over William Aramony, the highly paid chief executive at United Way of America. Mr. Aramony resigned after an outcry over his $435,000 salary and costly perks, but the revelations cast a pall over campaigns nationwide.

In 1993, many campaigns recovered, according to year-end reports. By December, 108 of 143 United Way organizations -- including groups in Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi and Missouri -- reported increased donations.

Others, like Central Maryland, continued to decline. The Fort Worth, Texas, campaign, for example, was down 7.1 percent.

Mr. Saxton said the local campaign's goal was based on a projection that job growth in the state would be flat.

United Way officials did see some encouraging trends in the recent campaign. Although fewer people made pledges, the size of the average gift increased.

And 107 companies ran their first campaigns, generating $160,000 in gifts.

Alex. Brown & Sons Inc., in particular, impressed United Way. The investment banking firm has tripled its gifts over the past three years, with employees contributing $732,811 to the 1993 campaign. The firm was given the Chairman's Award for its results.

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