Giving declines as United Ways target ‘collective impact ‘

By Todd Cohen

Annual fundraising at the four biggest United Way campaigns in North Carolina has taken a sharp dive during the decade or more they have revamped how they invest donor dollars back into their communities.

Embracing a strategy known as “collective impact,” United Ways in Charlotte, Forsyth County, Greensboro and the Triangle have reduced their funding over time of the health-and-human-services agencies they traditionally supported, and instead have invested a big share of dollars they raise in collaborative efforts to address targeted community needs.

Fundraising by United Way of Central Carolinas in Charlotte declined to $28.5 million in 2016 from $45 million in 2007, while fundraising by United Way of the Greater Triangle fell to $8.8 million in 2016 from $26 million in 2001, according to data from United Way Worldwide. Data from 2016 are the most recently available.

In the Triad, fundraising by United Way of Forsyth County fell to $14.8 million in 2016 from $18.3 million in 2007, while fundraising by United Way of Greater Greensboro fell to $10 million in 2016 from $15 million in 2000.

Fundraising declined in seven of the last 10 years in Greensboro, and in five of the last seven years in the Triangle.

Among the nine local United Ways in North Carolina that raised at least $1 million each in 2016, only United Way of Greater High Point raised more than it did the previous year.

High Point United Way has bucked the collective-impact tide and continues to focus its funding on its traditional partner agencies. Its campaign grew each of the last seven years to just over $5 million in 2016.

Among the top nine United Way campaigns in North Carolina, Forsyth County, High Point and Greensboro raised the most money per capita in 2016 — $39.63 for Forsyth,  $35.03 for High Point, and $25.55 for Greensboro.

That compares to $19.03 per capita in Charlotte; $17.64 for United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County, which raised $4.5 million, down from $6.1 million in 2006, and saw its campaign decline nine of the past 10 years; $8.29 for Catawba County United Way, which raised nearly $1.3 million; $7.53 for United Way of Davidson County, which raised $1.2 million,  down from $2.6 million in 2000; $5.21 for the Triangle; and $4.59 for United Way of the Cape Fear Area in Wilmington, which raised nearly $1.9 million, down from $3.1 million in 2002.

Among the nine United Ways in the state that raise over $1 million year, High Point is one of the only United Ways — and the largest — that has continued its traditional strategy of providing operating and program support to its partner agencies that provide health and human services.

United Way of the Greater Triangle, in comparison, now gives 80 percent of its funding to collaborative efforts involving two or more agencies that address needs its defines, with the remaining 20 percent going to traditional partner agencies that apply for funding to address basic human needs.

In addition to funding focused on basic needs, United Ways in Forsyth County, Greensboro and Charlotte all provide funding to defined focus areas.

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