Setting what it terms a "challenging goal," the United Way of Central Maryland aims to raise $37 million as it kicks off its annual fund-raising campaign today.
The agency hopes to surpass the 1994 total of nearly $35 million and continue last year's recovery from a two-year slump in contributions. In 1993 the agency hit a six-year low.
James B. Sellinger, an IBM vice president and chairman of the 1995 campaign, said officials were confident that area workplace fund-raising drives and individuals will help push contributions to the target amount. "It's a challenging goal, but with focus, good execution and good communication, we believe we will reach it," Mr. Sellinger said, adding that 2,000 workplace campaigns in Central Maryland will raise money from employees.
Contributions to the charity have suffered in recent years because of an unstable business climate and disclosures that highly paid William Aramony of United Way of America stole agency money to spend lavishly on romantic getaways with teen-age girls and young women.
Both problems appear behind the agency. Aramony, who was not directly tied to local United Way agencies, has been sentenced to a seven-year prison term. And the area's economy has stabilized, said Donald P. Hutchinson, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee.
"I think the Baltimore business community has had a solid year," Mr. Hutchinson said. "I think corporate leaders are going to make sure that corporate gifts are sustained or significantly increased."
The charity says there is pressure to raise money because nonprofit agencies it supports are expected to play a greater role in providing social services than in the past. "I think people are influenced when they see a need, and the heart goes out," said Joseph E. Blair Jr., the agency's board chairman. "At one point, people thought that government can do it all. Now there is a recognition that government can't do it all. And if it's going to get done, we'll have to find other ways."