United Way gets business commitments Some 30 'pacesetters' give jump start to drive

goal will top $37 million

'A lot of enthusiasm'

'Increased confidence' observed in both charity and economy

September 02, 1996|By Sean Somerville | Sean Somerville,SUN STAFF

The United Way of Central Maryland is hoping that commitments by about 30 businesses to boost their contributions from last year will help the charity reach a 1996 goal expected to be at least $37 million.

Those companies, called "pacesetters" because they run their fund-raising campaigns before the overall campaign, aim to increase their contributions by 15 percent.

Chris Pettingill, managing director of human resources for Provident Bank of Maryland and manager of the pacesetter effort, said the companies likely will fall just short of a $4 million goal.

The exact amount was unavailable because companies are still counting contributions. But the results will more than double last year's $1.8 million, which was raised by a dozen pacesetter companies.

"We had a lot of enthusiasm," Pettingill said. "There's increased confidence in the United Way and in the economy."

The pacesetter campaign starts in July and ends in September. "The principle is to give the campaign a good jump start," said Donald Manekin, chairman of the annual campaign and a senior vice president for Manekin Corp., a Columbia-based commercial real estate firm.

To find pacesetters, the United Way identified about 50 area companies that appeared to be within reach of the 15-percent-increase mark. The charity based that calculation on a number of factors.

"If you have 500 employees and only 150 are giving, the potential for a 15 percent increase is substantial," said Larry Walton, president of United Way of Central Maryland.

Among the 30 companies that agreed to become pacesetters are AAI, the Cockeysville-based defense contractor; Associated Black Charities in Baltimore; two JC Penney department stores in White Marsh and Baltimore; the Loews Annapolis Hotel; and three banks.

In addition to winding up the pacesetter campaign, the charity is in the final stages of setting an annual goal. Walton said the goal is sure to be higher than last year's, which was $37 million. "We don't know by how much," he said.

The United Way fell just short of that goal, raising about $36.5 million. But the amount represented the biggest increase in five years -- $1.5 million more than the $35 million total for 1994.

Last year's campaign also was a sign that the local charity had emerged from the taint of a national scandal. That scandal occurred when it was disclosed that William Aramony, while CEO of United Way of America, was receiving a $435,000 salary and using agency money for personal trips. Aramony, who had no connection to local United Way efforts, has since been sentenced to seven years in prison.

"Most people now are aware that the people responsible for that are in prison," Walton said. "They understand that it's national and has nothing to do with local people."

Walton, a newcomer to Maryland who has run United Way agencies in Pennsylvania and Virginia, said the charity expects to benefit this year from efforts to identify small and medium-size businesses as potential givers.

In one instance, he said, the United Way discovered that it had never approached a Columbia-based advertising firm with 100 employees. "That's a lot of people to miss," he said. "One of the things we have to do is ask."

In a new twist, a group of local foundations has agreed to donate 50 cents on the dollar for gifts that exceed $1,000. That way, a $1,000 gift from an individual means $1,500 to the charity.

The charity also is working more closely with participating companies to set fund-raising goals. "The goal in the past has been set from the top," Manekin said, Companies that set their own goals might work harder to reach them, he said.

Pub Date: 9/02/96

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