United Way vows to analyze funds

United Way's new leadership said Friday they're delving into money spent on the agency's in-house programs and promised to share their results next week.

Interim President Mac Everett and board Chairman Carlos Evans have requested eight years worth of financial information on four little-known programs run by United Way of Central Carolinas. These programs, which receive scant scrutiny, were given $4 million last year – a 33 percent increase.

Evans and Everett also said they will provide answers to questions the Observer asked the agency but did not get answers to, such as what the programs have accomplished.

Programs include the agency's community development arm, a volunteer center, a telephone referral line and Success by 6, geared toward improving early education.

The review is part of a larger plan by Evans to overhaul an agency that's been battered over executive pay. Many donors expressed outrage after learning longtime President Gloria Pace King received a pay package worth $1.2 million last year. Since becoming chairman in September, Evans has opened board meetings to the public and created a task force to look into what went wrong with the setting of King's pay package.

Evans and Everett said an initial review of agency spending shows United Way spending on local charities has increased faster than spending on in-house programs and overhead.

According to Everett's calculations: Between December 2001 and June 2008, United Way raised 22 percent more money.

Spending on overhead and in-house programs rose 11 percent while dollars to local charities increased 27 percent. Last year, United Way raised $45.3 million.

An Observer analysis showed spending on the United Way-run programs rose 28 percent from fiscal years 2006 to 2007. Total dollars given to the 91 United Way charities rose 3.3 percent.

Evans and Everett said the change in spending doesn't necessarily signify a program's worth or whether the money has been well-spent. They have said they plan to evaluate the programs' effectiveness and value in later months.

Still, Everett said he took comfort in knowing that the charities received bigger increases than in-house programs and administrative tasks over time.

“I think it's encouraging to see that,” Everett said. “We've got more work to do. I think on the surface those numbers are encouraging.”

Everett also said that a letter he sent to United Way supporters this week following an Observer report critical of the programs was simply meant to “communicate” with donors and volunteers.

The Observer this week reported that United Way's in-house programs have received continuous budget increases even as the mission of the largest one has grown increasingly murky.

In his letter, Everett stressed that United Way adheres to Generally Accepted Accounting Principals and United Way of America reporting guidelines, and posts its tax filings on its Web site.

He said Friday that the public has the right to ask questions about program spending.

“We have a lot of questions to ask ourselves,” he said in an interview.