Saturday, June 12, 2004

United Way work begins

By Cliff Peale
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Vivian and Jim Schwab spend several hours a day on the 2004 United Way campaign, and it hasn't even officially started.

More than two months before the campaign's kickoff Sept. 2, the campaign co-chairs are visiting corporate executives, nonprofits and potential leadership givers.

By the formal opening, they hope to have raised pledges for about one-quarter of a goal that probably will be slightly higher than last year's $60.5 million raised. That made Greater Cincinnati's campaign the 11th largest nationally in total giving, and the fourth-largest of the nation's biggest campaigns in per-capita giving.

The campaign will be completed Oct. 28. By then, it will have enlisted about 18,000 volunteers and 3,000 employee campaigns, including one of the nation's biggest at Procter & Gamble Co.

It's among the most exhaustive community efforts, from the top corporate executives who generally run the campaign to the roughly 140,000 people who contribute.

The donations will go to 159 agencies, including some the Schwabs have visited already. The largest 2003 allocation was $4.97 million to the Cincinnati area chapter of the American Red Cross.

"When you see, first-hand, the impact and you feel the vitality - the young single mothers learning to become health-care professionals - you feel really good about what you're doing," said Jim Schwab, Cincinnati market president of U.S. Bank. "At least we did."

Barbara Howard, executive director of the Redwood Rehabilitation Center in Fort Mitchell, said year-round attention to the campaign is critical. Last year, Redwood received $587,933, part of its operating budget of $3.8 million.

"The fund raising is two months, but the good works are 12 months a year," Howard said. "Those needs don't go away."

Redwood is just starting an expansion that will double its available space and allow it to add services for a waiting list that now has 166 people, she said.

This year, the United Way campaign faces the challenges of a market burdened by a constant stream of nonprofit campaigns, and an economy that has yet to fully recover from recession.

In 2002, it missed its goal by $1.8 million, but still beat the previous year's total with $60.2 million.

Last year's campaign totaled $60.5 million, just barely meeting the goal.

The Schwabs and the campaign cabinet will set this year's goal this summer. The key, they said, is connecting potential donors personally with agencies that might receive funds.

Because the Greater Cincinnati campaign has matured to the point where organizers don't expect double-digit increases, strategies for growing the campaign include:

• Broadening the base. About 70 percent of the campaign comes through employees of companies, with another 20 percent through corporate pledges. With much of the economic growth coming from small and mid-sized concerns, mainly in the suburbs, tapping more of those companies is critical, Schwab said.

Some growth is coming from electronic pledging, with about three dozen companies using that option, raising more than $19 million.

• Finding leadership gifts. There are seven local givers at the million-dollar level, and about 3,500 more pledging at least $2,500.

• Tapping new markets. An effort to target female donors has tripled the number of $10,000-and-up givers in the last three years, with more than 90 now at that level, said Vivian Schwab, an executive sales vice president at Sibcy Cline. That has led to several programs to build women's self-sufficiency, she said.

• Tweaking the strategy. The organization has evolved from simply funding agencies to operating several regional programs targeted at specific issues. Examples include Every Child Succeeds, a regional home-visitation program for first-time mothers.




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