United Way seeks $39.4 million 1998 goal represents 4.2% increase over last year's donations

August 25, 1998|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

Aiming for its fourth straight year of increased donations, United Way of Central Maryland announced yesterday a goal of $39.4 million for 1998, a 4.2 percent jump over last year's pledges.

"The early indicators of a successful campaign are terrific," said Donald P. Hutchinson, chairman of the campaign.

Generous individuals and companies running "Early Bird" summer programs have meant that the annual campaign to help the needy will open Sept. 3 with more than 10 percent of its goal realized, he said. The 10-week drive ends Nov. 10.

Hutchinson, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee, said 112 Alexis de Tocqueville Society givers -- individuals who give at least $10,000 -- have donated $1.25 million so far, a $365,000 increase over this time last year. He anticipates that by the end of the campaign, 212 people, including 45 new members, will have given $3 million.

Meanwhile, 74 companies -- compared with 24 last year -- will wind up their "Early Bird" drives soon. The companies are expected to donate $4 million, compared with $1.5 million last summer.

"I'm confident we will make the overall goal, although there are variables you can't control," Hutchinson said. "A company may disappear or a strike may intervene. Barring things like that, it's looking good."

United Way last year raised $37.8 million, falling short of its $39.1 million goal. A variety of reasons were noted, including faulty projections by United Way's antiquated 1981 computer system. That problem has been corrected, with the initiation July 1 of a new software system.

United Way officials say 87 percent of funds raised go to programs, which, United Way president Larry E. Walton says, is one of the best percentages among charities nationwide.

A "Day of Caring" will open the campaign's main phase Sept. 3 when 1,000 volunteers fix, paint, build, plant and otherwise help out at 53 Baltimore-area sites.

In Bolton Hill, they will erect a memorial at Family and Children's Services for families who have lost children to disease or adoption. They will wash 30 vans at ARC's Harford County facilities serving mentally retarded people. Some will landscape grounds at the Domestic Violence Center in Howard County. Others will perform repairs at Opportunity Builders, an Anne Arundel County program assisting people with developmental disabilities.

"United Way is not only people being served, but hundreds and thousands of Marylanders who do good work serving them," Hutchinson said.

Walton, who recently withstood plates of whipped cream in the face 30 times at $1 a throw to further the cause, said more than 200,000 donors are expected to donate funds for the benefit of 600,000 recipients.

"One misconception about United Way is that it is designed for people without jobs," Walton said. "In fact, two-thirds of donors' funds are for people in working families struggling to make ends meet: a single mother, families with a child on drugs, families supporting elderly parents and so on."

The recently announced $10 million pledged over five years to the Safe and Sound program for Baltimore children will not come from the regular drive, Walton said. Half will come from endowment, one-quarter from extra gifts from corporations and foundations and one-quarter from allocations for programs dropped from United Way funding next year.

These projects, representing 10 percent to 20 percent of 302 current programs, will be eliminated under changes announced a year ago to provide stronger accountability.

In February, after months of research, a volunteers' "community building and investment" group will recommend to the United Way board a new, sharper focus on programs that will concentrate more on families, children and individuals in dire need.

Meanwhile, a group of 22 agencies have been learning how to be more accountable to donors and to adopt better methods of documenting results, a process that will take four more years to spread to all agencies receiving United Way help, Walton said.

Hutchinson, head of the GBC for almost five years, comes full circle to United Way; his first job after college was heading corporate solicitations for what was then called The United Fund, an umbrella agency for social service agencies in Baltimore.

Scott Wilfong, president of Crestar Bank in Maryland, and Michael E. Waller, publisher and CEO of The Sun -- co-chairmen of the Early Bird drive -- will serve as general chairman in 1999 and 2000, respectively.

Pub Date: 8/25/98

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