United Ways nationwide report increased giving in '97 Donations had been declining since 1991


Donations to many United Ways rose significantly last year, reversing a trend in which donations fell from 1991 to 1996, preliminary figures obtained from large United Ways show.

But the United Ways in Los Angeles and Chicago might bring in less money than they did in 1996, which could mean further cuts in financing for social service charities in those cities.

At 11 of the 13 largest United Ways, each of which raises more than $50 million annually, pledges for 1997 rose an average of 3 percent over 1996. Those figures, like all those in this article, are adjusted for inflation.

The United Way of Central Maryland raised $39.1 million, a 3.4 percent increase over 1996. It was the third straight year of increased giving and the second straight year the campaign goal was reached in the state.

Detailed national figures will not be available until August.

Though United Ways historically depended for most of their revenue on workers who authorize modest deductions from their paychecks, the growth in pledges comes almost entirely from business owners and executives making pledges of $1,000 or more, say officials of United Ways across the country.

United Way of New York City said that pledges so far to its local campaign, which provides nearly a quarter of its finances, are up more than 10 percent, to $19 million for 1997 from $17.1 million in 1996.

But the Los Angeles United Way, where donations fell 43 percent from 1991 to 1996, is encountering resistance from donors. Its advertising campaign, which says city residents have plenty of money for breast implants, cafe lattes and "other necessities of life" but are stingy givers, is the subject of widespread debate.

Joseph Haggerty, president of the Greater Los Angeles United Way, said the group might fall "a tad short" of its $59 million goal, which would be a slight decline from 1996.

The Chicago United Way/Crusade of Mercy has extended its campaign, which was to have ended on Dec. 31, to April 1, said its spokeswoman, Carolyn Placko. The organization has not released its figures.

All 1,300 local United Ways reported raising $3.25 billion in 1996, which was 11 percent less than in 1991, the last year before a disclosure that William Aramony, then-president of United Way of America, had stolen charity funds. Aramony, convicted on fraud charges, is in prison.

Pub Date: 1/25/98

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