Greensboro United Way targets poverty

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — In Greensboro, 20 percent of adults and 25 percent of children live in poverty.

To address the challenges they face, which typically compound one another and are rooted in interconnected problems, United Way of Greater Greensboro this fall will begin working with local nonprofits, public schools, government agencies and other partners to develop a collaborative effort that next year will begin to offer a “continuum of services” on a pilot basis to individuals and families in need.

“People who live in poverty don’t have one issue,” says Michelle Gethers-Clark, president and CEO of United Way. “It’s generally speaking a host of challenges and adversities that need to be addressed.”

The new poverty initiative, and the partnerships and community support it will count on, underscore the message that United Way aims to deliver during its annual fundraising campaign that kicks off September 25 at Festival Park.

While the campaign will not set a goal in a repeat of last year’s approach, United Way aims to raise more than the $11 million it raised last year, when it exceeded the previous year’s total by $800,000 and posted its first year-over-year increase in five years.

United Way also aims in the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2015, to invest more in the community than the $9 million it is investing this fiscal year, Gethers-Clark says.

“The need is growing in the community,” she says. “If we really want to make a meaningful difference, we have to give agencies at least the same money or more money year over year.”

Chaired by Jason Bohrer, principal at Newbold Advisers, the campaign will continue strategies it used last year.

Those include visits by Gethers-Clark to speak to employees and executives of corporations and other organizations holding workplace drives; connecting more personally with individual donors; tailoring volunteer programs for companies geared to their corporate social responsibility priorities; and providing opportunities for community service, professional development and networking for women, African Americans and young leaders who make larger gifts.

United Way has developed customized programs for 10 to 12 companies, including Syngenta, where a new women’s leadership initiative has enlisted 75 to 100 women who each volunteer for United Way and want to learn more about philanthropy and how to contribute more of their time and money.

In an effort chaired by Sue Cole, managing partner at SAGE Leadership and Strategy, United Way aims to increase by 10 percent the number of “Tocqueville” donors, or those who give $10,000 or more each, from the 130 who gave a total of $1.1 million last year, Gethers-Clark says.

United Way has relationships with 16,000 donors and volunteers, helps change the lives of 101,000 people a year and, because its 29 partner agencies can “leverage” the United Way dollars they receive to secure support from other sources, has a net impact on the community of over $15 million a year, Gethers-Clark says.

By investing in strategies that focus on collaborative solutions to urgent community problems, she says, United Way provides a “helping hand and not a handout” that makes a difference.

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