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United Way campaign ahead of last year

With six weeks left for fundraising, United Way’s annual campaign is running slightly ahead of last year’s results, agency officials said.

By “slightly,” they mean about 1.1 percent. That’s a positive sign, given the struggles United Way and other charities have faced in meeting campaign goals since the start of the economic downturn.

The agency has so far raised $16.9 million toward its $21.4 million goal, officials said. The campaign concludes Feb. 21.

United Way Executive Director Jane McIntyre said she is optimistic the campaign might actually exceed last year because of the number of “Top 100” corporate campaigns that are showing big improvements over 2012.

Of the audits completed so far, one-third of the company campaigns have had double-digit increases, including one campaign that jumped 91 percent, officials said. United Way also has seen an increase in the number of big donors giving $25,000, officials said.

“I think this shows that people are feeling more secure in their jobs,” McIntyre said. “There is still a lot of uncertainty, but it has lessened now that many local companies are not going through management changes and laying people off. In 2009, it was just plain scary.”

That was the year after Wells Fargo bought Charlotte-based Wachovia, creating an air of uncertainty in the city’s banking-based economy. United Way was also feeling the after-effects of a scandal involving pay and benefits for its former executive director, Gloria Pace King.

The one-two punch of the recession and the King controversy resulted in the agency posting a $20 million drop in money raised in its 2008 campaign, which in turn led to steep cuts to its partner charities.

McIntyre took over in August 2009 and has been repairing United Way’s reputation, while also increasing goals for campaigns by small increments each year. This year’s $21.4 million goal is a 1.1 percent increase over 2012’s campaign goal.

Last year, United Way gave out $16.5 million in donor dollars to 84 partner charities, including funding increases to 26 charities.

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