United Way is sole bidder for city's charity drive


The United Way of Central Maryland took a step toward regaining the direction of the charity drive among Baltimore's 27,000 municipal employees yesterday when it submitted the only bid for the fund-raising contract to the Board of Estimates.

The United Way, which had run the city employee drive since 1985, lost the contract two years ago to New Jersey-based National Black United Fund Inc., which had submitted a substantially lower bid.

NBUF President William T. Merritt said his organization chose not to bid on the Baltimore contract this year because a requirement that the organization put up the start-up costs for the drive would put a strain on NBUF resources.

He said that NBUF wants to concentrate on efforts that more directly strengthen the black community.

"We thought it was important that we establish that we could actually manage a campaign of the size of Baltimore's and that it did not have to be monopolized by one organization," Mr. Merritt said.

He said his organization had proved this in the two campaigns it ran among city employees.

The board is expected to formally award the contract to the United Way on Wednesday.

Last year, city employees pledged a record $923,528 to the charity drive, according to Bert Finkelstein, deputy city auditor.

In 1988, the last year the United Way organized the city charity drive, city employees pledged $877,274.

Mr. Finkelstein said the record amount collected by NBUF was impressive because the campaign had been the target of a local radio talk show host, who repeatedly used the airwaves to question the organization's qualifications.

"Last year broke all records and was the biggest year we have ever had," Mr. Finkelstein said of the NBUF-organized drive.

"We looked at that as quite an accomplishment because we did have some personnel downsizing and there was a recession."

Although the city sought five bidders this year, United Way was the only organization to make an offer.

Under the terms of the bid, United Way offered to organize the city charity drives for 1991 and 1992 for $191,000.

The two-year NBUF contract had been for $173,992.50.

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