Record year for United Way; Central Md. drive raises $39.4 million, surpasses '98 goal; 4th year of increases


The United Way of Central Maryland announced yesterday that its 1998 campaign raised $39,401,218, a record-setting number that slightly surpassed the organization's goal for the year.

The figure, revealed to board members yesterday, is 4.2 percent higher than the $37.8 million raised in the 1997 campaign, and represents the fourth straight year of increased giving in the region that includes Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties.

Donald P. Hutchinson, chairman of the 1998 campaign and president of the Greater Baltimore Committee, called the response "overwhelming."

"I think we've established over the last four years a campaign that's reflective of Baltimore's willingness to contribute," he said.

The drive was notable for its 76 "early bird" campaigns, the highest number ever, which raised nearly $5 million before the organization's official fund-raising kickoff Sept. 3. That figure was 16 percent higher than those companies raised in 1997, Hutchinson said.

In other highlights of the campaign:

The organization's "Leadership Society" -- individuals who give $1,000 or more -- had 4,000 members, more than ever. That group contributed $6 million.

"Alexis de Tocqueville Society" givers, who contribute $10,000 or more, numbered 201, raising $2.9 million.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. ran the first $2 million campaign in the region.

The Combined Federal Campaign, which concentrates on federal government workers, raised a record $4.5 million, $200,000 higher than its goal. That growth was fueled by "Leadership Society" givers, whose numbers grew by a third.

Eighty-seven companies and organizations ran United Way campaigns for the first time.

The numbers also tell the agency what it needs to work on: soliciting more companies for drives and finding a family or individual willing to commit more than $250,000 a year over several years.

Even with the increase in new workplace drives, only about 30 percent of the region's companies that employ more than 50 workers run United Way campaigns.

"If there was one thing we would hope, it's that 87 would turn into 870 new accounts," said Larry E. Walton, United Way president. "The more we can get into that market and help those people participate, that's where we can make a tremendous inroad."

Hutchinson noted that the organization needs to reach out more to start-up companies "that have been having quick and significant success. These folks are very much high-wage earners. There is a great opportunity in Baltimore."

At the same time, Hutchinson said he was heartened that "transitional" companies such as USF&G;, which was acquired in a $3.5 billion merger with St. Paul Cos. last year, kept their levels of employee giving.

Even as its coffers are growing, United Way, which serves 1.7 million people through local health and human services organizations, is narrowing the number of agencies that will share the proceeds. Last year, the organization's board voted to focus a third of its donors' money on four areas of need -- rather than nine -- and to require tangible results from the programs it funds.

A group of volunteers selected to choose agencies for funding under the new criteria has been going through proposals in preparation for a board vote late this year, Walton said.

"Any time you go through that, it's tough," he said. "But we are seeing some incredibly creative and effective proposals."

Pub Date: 2/19/99

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