United Way sets campaign in motion

Appeals to women, courting businesses are a part of strategy

$45 million goal

September 05, 2001|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Officially launching their 2001 fund-raising drive yesterday, United Way of Central Maryland officials announced an aggressive strategy on three fronts, including seeking more large gifts from women, finding small and medium-size businesses to take on campaigns, and making first-person pitches to workers at participating companies.

At a luncheon at the city's convention center to begin the campaign, officials also announced the 2001 fund-raising goal of $45 million, 5 percent higher than the $43.1 million raised last year for the chapter and its 75 member agencies, which operate 300 programs in Baltimore City and County, and Harford, Howard, Carroll and Anne Arundel counties.

As Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, defensive tackle Tony Siragusa and other Super Bowl champions caused a stir among the roughly 1,200 onlookers, campaign Chairman James W. Brinkley, president and chief executive officer of Legg Mason, exhorted the gathering, "You judge a community by its caring. ... The Good Samaritan didn't just have good intentions."

While the $45 million target is consistent with recent increases, United Way officials said, there was some concern over having to persuade people to give more in an economic climate nowhere near as robust as last year's. Downsizing and layoffs have come back into the work force in a way not seen for several years.

Larry E. Walton, president of United Way of Central Maryland, observed that some of the biggest United Way contributors, such as Bethlehem Steel ("$1 million dollar account"), Procter & Gamble and The Sun do not have as many employees as they did a year ago. As a result, their contributions are expected to be fairly flat compared with last year's. The Sun's goal is $600,000, more than $100,000 less than last year's giving.

"When the economy's soft, there's all the more reason to give," said J. Scott Wilfong, president and CEO of SunTrust Bank, who led the 1999 campaign. "Whether we have a robust economy or not, the community's health is at stake, even if it's an unnatural thing to give away your hard-earned money."

Underscoring the urgency some employers place on charitable giving to United Way, Wilfong said SunTrust employees understood the importance of a gift - "because we tell them," he said with a grin.

"Anywhere you have employees, we'll be there to tell the story," said Drew Langloh, senior vice president of United Way of Central Maryland, who said he once spoke to a roadside crew at 6 a.m.

Walton said that presentations can make a tremendous difference: "We know that, if we ask a group, two-thirds will give. The key is getting in the door."

Another significant part of the three-pronged strategy, United Way officials said, is asking wealthy women who are business owners, investors or philanthropists to give at least $10,000 individual "leadership" gifts named for Alexis de Tocqueville. A French social thinker, de Tocqueville wrote the 19th-century classic Democracy in America, which identified civic volunteerism as unique to this country's small towns and big cities.

This year, Langloh said, the United Way hopes to raise $5.4 million from that leadership gift source, a nearly $700,000 increase from last year. One part of the campaign, called the "women's edition" of the de Tocqueville initiative, will be led by retired entrepreneur Melanie Sabelhaus, charged with increasing the number of women donors from 48 to 100. She also was named national chairman of the women's initiative, United Way officials said.

Companies new to United Way will also get attention, and 40 new companies have been recruited so far, Walton said. They include Yellow Transportation, Bank One and Comcast.

While 70 percent of the United Way proceeds come from payroll deductions, that is not necessarily the case with the Baltimore Ravens, said quarterback Chris Redman. Many of his teammates, he said, give to charity through their own foundations. The Ravens organization gave $125,000 last year, United Way officials said.

Brian Billick, the Ravens head coach, reminded those in the room that although Maryland is one of the wealthiest states in family income, it ranks low in charitable giving.

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