High Point United Way faces rising demand for services

By Todd Cohen

HIGH POINT, N.C. — For each of the past four years, United Way of Greater High Point has posted record-high results for its annual fundraising campaign. For six of the past seven years, its fundraising has grown faster than United Ways in North Carolina’s other major metro areas. And its $60 per-capita giving eclipses that of every United Way in the state except Forsyth County’s.

But sustaining its fundraising growth will be tough this year as changes in corporate ownership drive a continuing exodus of local jobs and a shift to corporate offices outside the state for decision-making about local corporate giving.

All those corporate changes could result in $250,000 in lost contributions, says Bobby Smith, United Way president.

“I would anticipate our goal being at best flat from what was raised last year,” when United Way raised $4.86 million, he says.

Critical to offsetting that lost revenue, he says, will be developing new relationships with employers, and with individuals, retirees and “Tocqueville Society” donors, or those who give $10,000 or more.

Chaired by Owen Bertschi, owner of Crescent Ford, this year’s campaign will kick off September 9 with United Way’s fifth annual “canpaign,” a one-day food drive at over 30 corporations.

Cumulative donations over the five years from the event, which last year collected an estimated 100,000 pounds of food picked up from the collection sites by a volunteer driver from Old Dominion Freight Line in Thomasville, this year is expected to exceed 500,000 pounds with an estimated value of $750,000.

Unlike many food drives that are held in cold-weather months, the United Way event aims to help keep local food pantries stocked until late fall, Smith says.

The Tocqueville effort, which this year is chaired by community activist Chris Greene, will need to raise $100,000 more than the $700,000 it raised last year from 63 donors, Smith says.

And several individuals have made anonymous pledges to supplement contributions from Tocqueville donors who agree to increase their annual gift to $10,000 over three years.

In addition to enlisting new Tocqueville donors, United Way also will be working to encourage existing Tocqueville donors to increasing their giving, Smith says.

For the overall campaign, United Way already has enlisted four companies with a total of over 1,000 employees to hold workplace drives for the first time. Those companies, including WGHP-TV; Whitewood Furniture Industries, Jasper Engineers and NCO, could generate a total of $50,000 for the campaign, Smith says.

The campaign is critical, he says, because demand continues to grow for health and human services from the 73 programs at the 28 partner agencies that United Way supports.

With funds from last fall’s campaign, United Way is investing over $4.1 million in those programs in the fiscal year that began July 1.

Funding requests from partner agencies exceeded by $60,000 the total United Way allocated, Smith says.

United Way also awarded eight venture grants totaling $43,458 to local nonprofits to help meet emerging or unmet needs. Requests for venture funding totaled nearly $300,000.

United Way also continues to look for new collaborations to help support partner agencies, Smith says.

In July, it partnered with Belk, which collected gently-used denim in return for discounted coupons, with Belk then donating the denim to United Way, which in turn gave it to partner agencies to give to kids.

Over two weekends in July and August, United Way teamed with local Walmart stores to collect donated supplies for local schools.

And it was one of four nonprofits that divided $50,000 contributed by the 2014 Wyndham Championship, a PGA Tour event held in August at Sedgefield Country Club in Jamestown. At the event, United Way also received funds from people attending who pledged to make contributions for every birdie scored a particular player. And visitors to United Way’s tent at the tournament helped pack food for 500 backpacks for children in need.

“We’re partnering with other groups, engaging with them, addressing needs outside our partner agencies, and leveraging additional resources, besides just being a fundraiser,” Smith says “If we see a need, a void, and if nobody else is willing to fill it, we’ll fill it.”

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