With less than a month to go in the Central Maryland United Way campaign, workers are hoping they can match last year's contributions of $31.9 million.
As of yesterday, the campaign had raised $26.8 million and the projection was that the non-profit agency could raise at least $31.5 million by Jan. 31, spokesman Mel Tansill said.
"If that holds up, that would be a tremendous response from the community in hard times," Tansill said.
"If we can match last year's fund-raising total, we would consider this campaign to be a success, especially in light of the recession."
A $31.5 million total would mark the first time the campaign has failed to increase giving from one year to the next, however.
And the original goal for this year -- $33.2 million -- was only 4 percent above that for the previous year. In earlier years, the goal was raised by 10 percent or more.
When last year's campaign still had a month to go, about $28.7 million had been raised. This year, the campaign has been lengthened from three to five months, but the recession has cut deeply into the ranks of those who normally give.
About 75 percent of the United Way's contributions come through employer-based programs. Tansill estimated that among the campaign's "Top 50" corporations, about 14,000 jobs were lost over the past year.
To compensate, the United Way has tried to concentrate on some smaller companies, which helped to offset some of the job losses in larger firms. These 1,800 companies, with 50 or more employees, have made significant contributions, Tansill said.
Overall, about 3,500 companies are participating in the United Way campaign this year. Campaigns have been completed at about 2,900 of them.
"We have no way of knowing how things will wind up," Tansill said.