United Way '98 giving is up $6.7 million Midpoint figures make chairman 'optimistic'

October 29, 1998|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

Midway through its 1998 campaign, United Way of Central Maryland has collected $17.7 million in pledges and cash, compared with $11 million at this time last year.

"We're optimistic we'll reach our goal of $39.4 million, although small and large problems can develop," drive Chairman Donald P. Hutchinson said yesterday.

He noted some "tremendously positive" developments:

Many companies are increasing their giving. Yesterday, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., which gave $1.8 million last year, became the first area company to give more than $2 million in a year.

Fifty corporations organized campaigns for the first time.

About 450 new "leadership" individuals contributed $1,000 or more. Their number is expected to reach 4,500, compared with 3,800 last year. "De Tocqueville" givers, donating at least $10,000, might grow to about 225, compared with 186 in 1997.

Yesterday's take was more than $4.7 million, during a promotional "Pony Express Roundup of Pledges" on horseback at post offices around the state.

The traditional 10-week drive ends Nov. 10, but United Way won't announce its total until early January because many companies, as well as federal, state and city government agencies, don't end drives until December.

Last year, United Way set a goal of $39.1 million, and announced in November that it had been reached. But several months later, the agency reported that the campaign had fallen short, with only $37.8 million collected.

United Way blamed several factors, including late donations, faulty projections and an antiquated computer system that has been replaced. Still, the 1997 drive produced the fourth straight year of increased giving.

In its effort to focus resources on the neediest, United Way will fund fewer programs next year, said Larry E. Walton, president and chief executive officer.

Next month, 150 volunteers will recommend to the United Way board a shortened list of programs to be funded by this year's donations. Last year, United Way financed 135 programs. Allocations will be announced next summer.

Individual donors may designate their favorite charities beyond those funded by United Way.

As a corollary to the sharper focus, Walton said, United Way is training agencies running the programs to document results showing how the money is making a difference and improving lives.

"We see an unbelievably positive spirit of cooperation and special effort this year," said Ellie Cox, vice president for resource development.

She mentioned a cooperative effort by 15 of the city's big attractions, such as the National Aquarium and Maryland Science Center, offering free one-time passes for a family of four to all 15 sites for people who give $1,000 or more.

Hutchinson praised several companies whose employees and leadership have given substantially more this year than last: Legg Mason, $570,000, up 40 percent; T. Rowe Price Associates, $550,000, up 22 percent; and Baltimore Sun Co., $472,000, up 73 percent.

"We'd love to have companies call us and ask for help to start drives this year," Walton said. "It's not too late."

Hutchinson and Walton said they felt Marylanders could give more to United Way. Of the 1,250,000 workers in Central Maryland, about 300,000 give, Hutchinson said.

The largest individual repeat donation is $100,000.

"Baltimore is still looking for the repeat donors many other cities have -- people who give $1 million, or $500,000 or $300,000 year after year," Hutchinson said.

Pub Date: 10/29/98

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