A cautious United Way of Central Carolinas announced Thursday that it intends to raise about $300,000 more than last year, setting a campaign goal of $21.2 million.
The slim 1.5 percent increase represents an effort to build on the financial momentum of 2011, when United Way took in $400,000 more than its goal. The extra money was largely credited to an increase in individual donors, who filled a gap left by fewer large corporate campaign gifts.
United Way has been struggling to boost campaign totals since 2008, when it suffered setbacks due to the economic downturn and a pay scandal involving a former executive director.
Even if the 2012 goal is reached, United Way still likely will have to dip into reserve funds for the third time in four years. It took $1.2 million in reserves last year. Agency officials predict less will be needed this year.
The campaign announcement came amid a week of activities orchestrated to show the agencys intent to be more than just a fundraiser:
• Tuesday, the agency teamed with Belk to give $175,000 in free uniforms to local at-risk students in Mecklenburg and two other counties.
• Wednesday, it announced partnerships aimed at recruiting and training 1,000 volunteer mentors to work with at-risk children. Partners include the Mayors Mentoring Alliance, UNC Charlottes Center for Adolescent Literacy, the Charlotte Chamber and three of the citys major sports teams (Bobcats, Panthers, Checkers).
• Thursday, the agency unveiled a literacy partnership with Target, First Book Charlotte, IKEA and United Way Young Leaders, agreeing to provide books or set up reading stations for hundreds of children.
Weve heard from the companies (hosting employee campaigns) that they want us to not just raise money, said Bill Norton, a spokesman for United Way. They want us to be a leader.
A step in that direction came last year, when United Way announced it would begin narrowing its focus to fewer areas, in an attempt to have a greater impact. First among those priority areas is helping youth and improving graduation rates.
All the partnerships announced this week will help further that goal, said United Way Executive Director Jane McIntyre.
Belk providing those uniforms made for one less barrier to keep children from succeeding in schools, and it was one less thing that their parents had to worry about not being able to afford, said McIntyre.
The effort also represented an example of United Ways growing reputation for making things happen in the community. Belk spokesman Adam Orvos noted the uniform giveaway was originally United Ways idea, and it aligned perfectly with the companys philanthropic goals.
United Way knows better than anyone else what the dire needs are in the community and where we need to go to have an impact, he said.