Carrying banners saying “thank you,” United Way staffers last year marched to The Square uptown to celebrate a record-breaking $45.3 million. “We are humbled, thrilled and ecstatic,” said campaign chair Mark Ricci.
One might think most of that money ultimately benefits one of the roughly 100 social service agencies United Way supports in Anson, Cabarrus, Mecklenburg and Union counties.
The reality: Of the $45.3 million collected last year, about half – close to $24 million – ended up in the coffers of a local charity.
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About $8 million – or 17 percent – supported charities in other communities. Donors can contribute money to United Way on the condition it goes to a non-local charity of their choice. United Way collects the money, charges a fee, and passes on the dollars. This money ended up at other United Ways, donors' collegiate alma maters, various health and human service organizations, arts groups, even animal shelters.
Then there are uncollectable pledges – about $3 million worth last year. This is money that is promised but never comes through. Donors, for example, may move, lose their jobs or decide to take back a contribution after it has been pledged.
The rest, about $10 million, is spent on grants, overhead, United Way-run programs, and reserves.
Board chairman Carlos Evans said much of the money flowing out of the community came from employees who moved to Charlotte from other parts of the country and want their contributions sent there.
“The important thing is the $45 million is raised to support nonprofits,” he said. “Whether someone chooses to send money back to United Way in Columbia or Atlanta because that is where they spent most of their working career, it's still going to good works.”