The United Way challenge Modest goal: Neighbors helping neighbors the only alternative to big government.

September 15, 1996

THE CAMPAIGN FOR $37,750,000 in payroll donations launched by United Way of Central Maryland represents a marginal increase over $36.2 million raised last year. It falls short of what this region would produce if Baltimoreans gave as generously as counterparts in St. Louis or Cleveland. But it is realistic, attainable and essential if Baltimore and five surrounding counties are to maintain their standard of life in the face of government cutbacks in social services.

Of the 2.4 million people in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties, perhaps 600,000 -- one in four -- will benefit from a service that receives support from the United Way of Central Maryland. Whether welfare reform is completed or in process, most private-sector agencies expect more people at their doors in coming years. Demands on United Way will grow.

The whole premise of cutting back government aid and expectations is that people watch out for their neighbors, that voluntary philanthropy touches a deep human need in the donor as well as recipient and that communities are made by this association. The United Way campaign is the test of whether people mean it.

This year's campaign started with "pace-setter" drives in 30 companies that delivered increases of 15 percent or better. It features a big push, encouraged by matching grants, for "leadership" donors of $1,000 or more, including a special effort in the African-American community. It seeks to achieve a permanent increase in volunteers for future campaigns. It introduces partnership boards for Carroll and Harford counties similar to those up and running in Howard and Anne Arundel counties.

The campaign will be punctuated by public meetings on needs assessments -- the method by which United Way volunteers allocate the money. It seeks out smaller companies, never asked before, to keep up with the changing American workplace. It benefits from the arrival of the Baltimore Ravens, who in their former incarnation as Browns spread the United Way message in Cleveland. And the campaign will be shorter than ever, reporting its goal met or missed before Thanksgiving.

Without the United Way, these agencies would be using more energy and money and people's time to raise less. United Way is the efficient way. It checks on results at the agencies its volunteers selected. It provides donor options for those with other ideas. It provides for steady payroll deduction from a single pledge. With all that going for it, $37,750,000 is the least that Central Marylanders can do.

Pub Date: 9/15/96

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