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.”


Despite sale of firms, High Point United Way aims higher

By Todd Cohen

HIGH POINT, N.C. — Despite losses expected as the result of the sale of two local companies, United Way of Greater High Point aims to raise $4.75 million in its annual campaign, more than the record-high total of nearly $4.72 million set last year.

Chaired by Doug Witcher, president of SmartChoice, the campaign kicked off September 10 with a food drive at 35 local companies.

While the economy is beginning to stabilize, United Way’s 29 partner agencies still are seeing government funding cuts, says Bobby Smith, United Way president.

Senior Resources of Guilford and Randolph County Senior Services, for example, both have had steep cuts in federal funding.

United Way increased its investment in both programs this year “but didn’t  begin to close the  gap in federal funds they lost,” Smith says.

Still, he says, with federal, state and local governments continuing to cut funds to health and human service agencies, all its partner agencies continue to count on United Way as a core source of funding, Smith says.

While corporate executives see the local economy holding steady, the sale of two corporations that had been locally owned and together employed roughly 800 people likely will result in the loss of $80,000 to $100,000 to the campaign that was contributed in the past by managers and professionals whose jobs were eliminated, says Bobby Smith, president of United Way.

The two companies last year each gave roughly $150,000 to the campaign and together employed 59 people who each gave $1,000 or more.

“Both the companies are still here, still doing business, still manufacturing, and the people remaining, I’m convinced, will do a great campaign,” Smith says. “But we lost a significant number of managerial and professional jobs.”

Smith declined to identify the companies.

But in the past year, Trinity-based Sealy Corporation was acquired by Tempur-Pedic International in Lexington, Ky., to form bedding provider Tempur Sealy International, while High Point-based Banner Pharmacaps was acquired by Patheon Inc., a Canadian pharmaceutical contract development and manufacturing services provider that has its corporate office in Durham.

Last year, when the campaign raised its most money ever, United Way lost nearly $90,000 in gifts of $10,000 or more as a result of the death or changes in family or personal circumstances of about 10 donors, known as Tocqueville donors.

“I don’t see that this year,” Smith says. “In fact, just the opposite: I expect some bounceback in Tocqueville giving.”

Among the top 15 employers that each account for contributions of $100,000 or more to the campaign, Smith says, he expects growth in giving from seven employers, flat giving at five employers, and declines at three, including the two that were sold.

“I don’t think the seven will be up enough to offset the amount of decline at the other three,” he says.

For the food drive, now in its fourth year, companies already are collecting food, which United Way will spend September 10 collecting in tractor-trailer trucks loaned by Old Dominion Freight Line.

Last year’s drive filled two of those trucks with food estimated to be worth over $100,000, Smith says.

High Point United Way targets basic needs

By Todd Cohen

HIGH POINT, N.C. — Tina Harp had lost her job, her home was in foreclosure, and she could not make her mortgage payments, and faced homelessness for herself and her three children at Christmas time.

So she visited the Salvation Army of High Point.

In addition to providing financial assistance for her mortgage payment, the agency asked if she needed holiday gifts for her kids.

Six year later, having found a new job, Harp learned the Salvation Army needed volunteer bell ringers to help solicit donations for the Christmas season.

So she invited her three children to volunteer with her.

“She’s like all of us,” says Bobby Smith, president of United Way of Greater High Point.

“You think you may not need the help,” he says. “Then you’re in a situation where you have to turn for assistance, and you get help, and when you get back on your feet, you’re wanting to help others.”

Harp is one of three people featured in an eight-minute video produced for United Way and its annual fundraising campaign by Digital Production Group in Greensboro.

Chair by Tim Ilderton, owner of Ilderton Chrysler Dodge Jeep, the campaign aims to raise just over $4.6 million, the total United Way raised last year, when it exceeded its goal by $177,000.

United Way’s annual campaign grew 5 percent last year after growing four percent the year before, enabling United Way this year to invest $3 million in its 29 partner agencies and their 70 programs it funds.

United Way also made one-time “venture” grants totaling nearly $50,000 to one of its partner agencies and to eight other agencies that are not United Way partners.

The total raised last year did not include any significant one-time gifts, and United Way anticipates no significant losses this year, Smith says.

That’s good news, he says, because the demand continues to grow for health and human services at United Way’s partner agencies.

That is particularly true for basic emergency needs, such as food, clothing, shelter and assistance with mortgage payments, rent, utility bills and consumer credit counseling, Smith says.

“United Way and its agencies are addressing the most critical needs in our community and doing so in an effective and efficient manner,” he says.