We invited readers to send in their questions for Jane McIntyre, the new executive director of the United Way of Central Carolinas.
Q. Would you consider a campaign that promotes both donating to the United Way AND donating directly to individual agencies? Some people prefer to donate directly, and this would create a vehicle that encourages folks to donate any way they feel comfortable.
Lisa Marie Nisely
That already happens with the United Way campaign. The only issue is that the majority of designated dollars goes to the better-known agencies and often leaves the lesser known agencies out. The Community Care Fund of United Way supports all 97 agencies throughout our four-county region. We do encourage donors to give to the Community Care Fund and select issues that are most important to them. The three areas are: income, education and health.
In addition, the actual decisions for the distribution of dollars to agencies are made by hundreds of community volunteers, people whom you may know. They review and make the tough decisions of how the funds are allocated.
With last week's news of the Leon Levine Foundation's million-dollar challenge grant, it is more important than ever that individuals consider giving to the Community Care Fund of United Way. This challenge grant has the potential to raise $2 million more than last year, that will go directly to the agencies to meet some of the greatest needs.
Q. How seriously are you considering changing the United Way name, and how seriously are you considering getting rid of the whole board and starting over? Why?
From several readers
United Way is an organization and a brand established in Charlotte in 1937 after the Great Depression. It has suffered a very painful year. Certainly everything is up for consideration. I believe the concern over the name is not about the name as much as how we operate. We will engage in a process over the next 12-18 months, which will give the community an opportunity to have input as we look at reinventing many aspects of how we run the organization. It is important to note that as of Thursday the United Way of Central Carolinas for the first time has set a specific goal only for the Community Care Fund. These are the dollars that stay in our communities and meet some of the greatest needs through the member agencies.
Regarding the board size, the new by-laws require the board consist of 18-24 members compared to approximately 60 in the past. The governance committee will determine the exact process before the end of 2009.
Q. Do you support transparency with regard to salaries and payments made to staff and board members, not just to the president? Also, should companies running United Way campaigns just distribute pledge cards, and not use additional duress to get employees to donate?
Absolutely. All non-profits are required by law to file a public document (Form 990) each year. There you will find the salaries of the CEO, CFO and the next five highest paid staff members. It should be noted that board members receive no payment for their volunteer commitments. This differs from most for-profit companies.
We do not support duress or the workplace campaigns being an aggravation to supporters and employees. Campaigns in the workplace are consistently more successful when United Way staff and a volunteer have a contact (employee) in the workplace who is responsible for running an organized effort within the company. It is especially important for employees to understand where their dollars go and what their gifts help accomplish. Many companies have lots of fun and even hold special events. If an employee receives a card via e-mail or in their regular mail and that remains the extent of the campaign, then those campaigns are rarely successful since everyone receives so much mail and e-mail every day.
Q. Will you make public the United Way's administrative costs, and detail those as a percentage of total funds received? And if those costs are more than 15 percent, will you work to reduce them? Will United Way require recipients of United Way funds to disclose their administrative costs?
The overhead rate is included as part of the Form 990. Prior to my arrival, the board and staff had reduced the United Way's overhead by about $3.1 million. This amount will not be fully realized until this fiscal year which ends June 30, 2010. In November we will start looking at each line item to see how we can further reduce costs. The reason I say November is that our 2010 campaign is underway and I am trying hard to be realistic about time.
Our current overhead is around 20 percent. We will work hard to get it under that number. The standard in the non-profit world is never over 25 percent; however, I personally believe that that is too high for a non-profit. The United Way does require that agencies report their overhead each year to the cadre of volunteers as part of the allocation process. If an agency's overhead starts to creep up, be assured it is required to develop a plan to reduce its overhead.