Forsyth United Way focuses on collaboration

By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — In 2007, when the high school graduation rate in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools was only 70 percent, a community-wide collaborative effort was launched to increase it to 90 percent by 2018. In the school year that ended June 30, the graduation rate had grown to 83.5 percent.

And in 2006, a separate community-wide collaborative effort was formed to reduce chronic homelessness. Last year, chronic homelessness had been reduced by 58 percent.

A key leader in both efforts has been United Way of Forsyth County, which increasingly is looking for collaborative solutions to address urgent and often intertwined problems involving health, education and financial stability.

“Those three things are interconnected in people’s lives,” says Cindy Gordineer, United Way president and CEO. “For us to try to address them in isolation doesn’t really get to the level of the kinds of breaking down of those barriers that people in challenged circumstances need.”

As it begins its annual fall fundraising campaign, Gordineer says, United Way’s overall strategy is to “become more focused and targeted with investments we’re making to get deeper and look more comprehensively at those within the community who face the kinds of barriers our donors are expecting us to address.”

Chaired by Cantey Alexander, regional president for BB&T, the campaign is part of a larger year-round fundraising effort that also includes grants and major gifts and aims this year to generate about $20 million, roughly the total it raised last year.

A key focus of this year’s campaign will be to reach new contributors, including retirees and people who do not work in large, traditional workplaces such entrepreneurs, small business owners and people who work remotely.

The campaign, which last year received contributions from over 30,000 donors, also will be targeting “leadership” donors who give $1,000 or more, and “Tocqueville” donors who give $10,000 or more.

Last year, the campaign generated support from 261 Tocqueville donors.

For the second straight year, BB&T has pledged $100,000 to match gifts by women who give at least $500 and agree to increase their annual gift to $1,000 over five years.

That Women’s Leadership Circle matching program, launched six years ago and previously supported by Reynolds American, last year had 1,150 members.

United Way also has four individual “Cornerstone” donors who each gives at least $100,000 a year.

And over the last three to five years, grants and major gifts outside the annual campaign from individuals and institutions have accounted for 15 percent to 20 percent of the total resources that United Way raises throughout the year. Those gifts include a 10-year, $2 million pledge in 2013 from Andy Brown, former chair of United Way’s board and owner of COR365, a data-storage company.

“We know there are other individuals like Andy, and corporations, that want to invest more deeply in some outcomes they’d like to see that align with United Way’s mission,” Gordineer says. “We’ve been able to demonstrate progress and outcomes, and measure them in a way that individual donors and corporations and foundations want to see.”

An emerging effort in United Way’s larger strategy involves early discussions with neighborhoods that face “more barriers to success” and “need more partnerships to help remove those barriers,” Gordineer says.

“We are looking at how we work with neighborhoods, potential partners and other community organizations to pilot more comprehensive solutions in those neighborhoods or areas that really do face more obstacles,” she says.

The first pilots, likely to involve a “continuum of services” that are “place-based,”  could begin in 2015.

They will be part of United Way’s larger and ongoing community-wide strategy to address critical needs, Gordineer says.

“We are able to look at those community-level issues that face our community,” she says, “and bring resources and partners and strategies, and align all of those to address the kinds of issues that no one agency can address.”

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