GBC head to lead United Way campaign Hutchinson hopes to top $40 million

March 07, 1998|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

Donald P. Hutchinson, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee, will be chairman of the 1998 United Way of Central Maryland campaign and take it in a new direction, the fund-raising agency announced this week.

"It's an important year because of the new accountability process to see how effective the agencies are," said Hutchinson. The former Baltimore County executive referred to revised United Way guidelines, which are intended to focus on the most needy.

Hutchinson also indicated that he hopes the drive will top $40 million for the first time. Funds from the 12-week drive that will start Sept. 3 will be the first dispersed under the new strategy.

The umbrella agency will assist fewer nonprofit groups, help people in the most distress and require nonprofit groups that receive money to demonstrate that they improve the lives of families, youths, the hungry, the homeless, the abused and others served.

United Way is more interested in knowing how many people can read after being in a literacy program than in how many people the program served, said Gail H. Sanders, vice president of marketing and communications.

Agencies have begun preparing ways to better produce and document the results of their programs in what is becoming a nationwide trend among United Way agencies. United Way staff members are interviewing agencies.

In a pilot program from October and to June, 22 Maryland nonprofit groups are being trained to use measuring guides developed by United Way of America. Results will help other charities. Some recipients were using guidelines suggested by their national organizations.

Accountability in a cost-effective way is more easily desired than done, say leaders of some nonprofit groups.

"We all understand the importance of validating results of programs," said Lisa Cid, executive director of the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland, one of the 22 agencies.

"In the nonprofit world, dependent on volunteers, we are all struggling to find ways to measure ourselves, ask the right questions and do it without causing the loss of a lot of time and money.

"In Girl Scouts -- youth work -- we can measure only short-term goals. Our programs are dispersed. We have volunteers who don't like doing paperwork, but now we have to train them and get them to be willing to do reports."

Cid presented the challenge by quoting a colleague: "The Girl Scouts have hundreds of adults working with thousands of Scouts in hundreds of different places."

The United Way changes in focus were announced in August. Corporate donors and their employees helped spur the retooling.

"It's all about return on investment," President Larry E. Walton said last year. "United Way can no longer take a shotgun approach and help everyone."

Hutchinson said no monetary goal has been set but that he thinks the drive might exceed "the $40 million-plus threshold." More than 2,000 volunteers will solicit funds in 2,500 workplaces and do other jobs.

Last year, donors broke the local United Way record by pledging more than $39.1 million under Chairman William C. Couper, president of the Greater Baltimore Area NationsBank. More than 250 health and human-services programs are distributing that money in programs serving more than 600,000 people in Baltimore and five surrounding counties.

Hutchinson, 52, who served two terms as Baltimore County executive and 10 years in the legislature, will retain his job as GBC president, which he has held for 4 1/2 years.

"It'll be a busy year," he said. He has begun visiting agencies and prospective donors while recruiting other drive leaders.

He has come full circle with United Way. "My first full-time job in 1969 after graduating from college was being a division director. I coordinated the work of United Way volunteers soliciting from local manufacturers."

He said he will stress "regional teamwork" to raise money.

"People living in the city and surrounding counties are critically interdependent: The well-being of one depends on the well-being of the other. And United Way touches us all. You live and work with people helped by United Way."

Pub Date: 3/06/98

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