United Way begins giving out $37 million Group is $400,000 short of last year's goal, officials now say

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

United Way of Central Maryland has begun distributing $37,027,000 to programs and agencies, about $337,000 more than the year before.

But the amount the nonprofit organization has in hand is less than expected. Last year's fund-raising campaign fell short of its goal -- after officials had declared they had reached it.

Although the final tally is being determined, it is at least $400,000 less than the campaign goal of $39.1 million that United Way said it successfully reached Nov. 12 at the campaign's end on "Victory Night." An anonymous donor gave $220,000 at the 11th hour so the campaign could reach its goal, officials said then.

The almost half-million-dollar shortfall occurred because funds raised among federal government employees, in their drive ending a month later, were less than the $4.5 million projection, officials said. United Way did increase its collection for the third straight year.

"The overestimate was due to a combination of things," said President Larry E. Walton. "Our volunteers and staff were working with an antiquated system of managing information with an old computer system we've used since 1981. The information we got was out of date.

"We'll pull the switch on our new computer system June 27 and expect to get more correct information. Other United Ways have used [the system] successfully."

In another development, the Baltimore Urban League and United Way hope they will patch up their differences so the equal opportunity group will continue to receive funds, said Linda S. Thompson, Urban League board chairwoman, and Walton.

Six members from each board will meet Monday in the first of several sessions.

"We've had healthy talks, and we think we can get the issues resolved," Thompson said.

"We're hoping the matter will be settled by the middle of the summer," Walton said.

Differences simmer

The league, whose allocation was $167,000 last year, said in March it would no longer ask for United Way money because of demands made by United Way. Walton said United Way objected to the league's accounting practices, and the differences have simmered for several years.

The United Way last year distributed $36,690,000 from the 1996 drive. The campaign raised more than $35 million, and the amount was augmented by interest and endowment income.

No goal has been formally set for the 1998 drive, but the chairman, Donald P. Hutchinson, said in March he hoped it would top $40 million.

This year a strategic plan goes into effect that stresses funding for programs rather than agencies. The strategy, being phased in over five years, will require more accountability by recipients in outcomes measurement.

Officials of the nonprofit used many of its traditional procedures in the planned distribution of money raised last fall. No major changes in recipients were reported.

Administrative costs

The full amount raised is not given to participating agencies because of the United Way's administrative and other costs. The board capped its operating expenses at 13 percent several years ago. It has a staff of 99. It also spends money on services that include a 24-hour-a-day information and referral service, "First Call for Help."

With 42 members voting, the United Way board approved the annual allocations April 30, based on the recommendations of volunteer committees.

"About 120 volunteers make all the decisions on who gets what money," said Marlene C. McLaurin, United Way vice president for community building and investment. "They work on committees like audit review and certification. The staff gives them information they need and want to make the decisions."

Seven major "contract affiliates," whose allocations are determined by formulas written in their contracts, received the following:

American Red Cross, $2,792,000 (up $3,000 from 1997); Associated Catholic Charities, $2,361,000 (up $3,000); Combined Health Agencies, $1,939,000 (up $3,000); American Cancer Society, $926,000 (down $2,000); The Associated: Jewish Federation, $896,000 (up $1,000); American Heart Association, $563,000 (down $2,000); Associated Black Charities, $527,000 (the same).

Agency leader

Family and Children's Services in Maryland, with $1,508,755, again the led the way among the 69 "agency affiliates" whose gifts vary from year to year. The Falls Road agency was followed by the YMCA of Central Maryland, Salvation Army of Greater Baltimore Area and the YWCA of the Greater Baltimore Area.

Three agencies are new to the top 10 list of "agency affiliates" this year.

They are Annapolis Bywater Boys and Girls Club, $240,632; Echo House Multi-Service Center, $235,407; and YWCA of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, $227,398.

Seven agencies, newly affiliated with United Way, got varying amounts.

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