United Way tops $39 million in pledges 11th-hour donor puts fund-raisers at goal as campaign closes

November 13, 1997|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

The United Way of Central Maryland has raised $39,103,000, the most ever here, in a drive that ended with a hectic week of last-minute solicitations after the loss of an expected gift.

An anonymous giver came through with $220,000 so the campaign could meet its goal.

Running from Sept. 3 to last night, the drive collected 3.4 percent more than last year's, making 1997 the third straight year of increased giving and the second straight year the campaign goal was reached.

About 600 campaign workers heard the results last night at the Convention Center.

"The community came together," said chairman William Couper, president of NationsBank in the Baltimore area. "As grateful as I am for the anonymous person who put us over the top, I'm just as grateful for the $52 guy who gives a dollar a week at work."

It was no textbook ending.

With a week to go, the drive was suddenly in danger of falling far short, officials said. Last Thursday, a corporation notified the fund-raisers that it couldn't repeat a "special gift" of $500,000 that was made to last year's campaign, said Couper and United Way President Larry Walton.

"We had counted on that gift in deciding our goal," said Walton. "If we had known the money wasn't coming, we would have had a lower goal this year than $39.1 million."

Drive officials began an urgent solicitation among other firms and individuals, trying to make up the difference and reach the goal by last night, the campaign's official end. By Tuesday afternoon they had collected almost $300,000 in pledges from various sources.

One Baltimore-area resident, who asked to remain anonymous, was solicited and then gave $220,000 late Tuesday so the drive could reach the goal and top the best previous United Way campaign, in 1991, by "several thousand dollars," Couper said.

Couper and Walton declined to name the company that decided against repeating its $500,000 gift. They said the decision was made by its corporate officials in another state and was unexpected.

"We feel it's unfair to name the company because people in Baltimore would point fingers at it and its employees who work here," Walton said. "We are extremely grateful to the company for giving substantially anyway."

The $500,000 gift would have been in addition to donations by the corporation and its employees amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars this year.

Maryland United Way donors continued their recent pattern of increases this year, giving to 302 agencies serving 600,000 people. Elena Cox, United Way vice president for resource development, said one reason for the "successful" drive was an increase in volunteers from 2,000 to 3,000 this year.

The umbrella collection agency raised $36.2 million in 1995, a 3.3 percent increase over the previous year. Last year, it raised $37.8 million, which was 4.4 percent more than in 1995.

On 821 occasions this year, Couper said, people getting help from United Way told their stories in talks and other forums.

"The key message of this," said Couper, "is that when people see what an efficient job the agencies do serving people in need, they give more."

All decisions on what agencies receive United Way money are made by volunteers, not by staffers. United Way reports that 87 percent of its collections go directly to programs and the remainder to the agency's overhead or administration. Final results of the campaign won't be audited until early 1999, after the end of payroll deductions next year.

Although final figures were not available, United Way officials offered examples of what Couper called "a lot of good news":

Baltimore City municipal employees -- directed by Neetu Dhawan-Gray, executive director of the Commission on Aging and Retirement Education -- gave $1 million, a 13 percent increase over last year. Together, Baltimore, state and federal workers gave $8.2 million.

Government and businesses in suburban counties gave $4.4 million, $200,000 more than last year.

Union members led drives in many companies and donated more than 40 percent of the total. United Steelworkers, for example, ran a "One Per Cent Club" drive at Bethlehem Steel Corp.; the number of employees giving 1 percent of earnings there jumped from 321 to 500.

There were 87 companies or employees donating for the first time; NationsBank matched some of these donations, raising more than $400,000.

"Pacesetters" -- companies and employees that gave before the Sept. 3 opening of the drive -- gave $1.8 million, a 4 percent increase over last year.

The number of donors giving $10,000 or more increased from 163 to about 190; they raised $2.5 million, a 20 percent increase over last year.

Individuals donating between $1,000 and $9,999 raised $4.8 million, 30 percent more than last year. The Johns Hopkins University, with 250 such donors, led the way among institutions. BT Alex. Brown had 200 such donors. Some of these donations were matched by local foundations.

Twenty-one of United Way's 23 categories of donors showed increases. Decreases were reported by manufacturers, down 1 percent, and foundations, down 14 percent.

Baltimore Ravens players and personnel gave more than $80,000.

Pub Date: 11/13/97

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