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United Way Fundraising Up, But Trails Inflation

By Mark Hrywna - October 15, 2012

United Way affiliates raised roughly 1.8 percent more public support last year or $3.927 billion — an increase of $69 million compared to 2010. It’s the second consecutive year public support is up after two years of declines, though it trails the rate of inflation in 2011 (3 percent) and early estimates of U.S. charitable giving last year (4 percent, 0.9 percent inflation-adjusted).

And had it not been for disaster-related fundraising, for Joplin, Mo., for example, the number would have trailed even further behind inflation. United Way Worldwide reported total public support of $3.858 billion in 2010, up less than a half-percent from the $3.842 billion in 2009.

Alexandria, Va.-based United Way Worldwide (UWW) in September released private contribution totals for 2011, and a breakdown of affiliates raising at least $1 million last year. Total revenue for 2011 was recorded as $4.139 billion, which was down more than 2 percent from $4.229 billion. The decline was due primarily to a precipitous drop in investment income from $113.8 million to negative $6.1 million last year. Government support also dipped by almost 6 percent, $15 million, from $257 million to $242 million last year.

The United Way of King County led the more than 1,200 United Way affiliates in public support for at least the fourth year in a row, despite a drop-off of more than 12 percent last year. The Seattle-based agency was the only affiliate to top $100 million and a dozen reached $50 million. The top 10 affiliates by total public support were:

  • United Way of King County, Seattle, Wash., $102,608,092, down 12.6 percent from $117,390,119;
  • United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, Atlanta, Ga., $99,619,375, up 3 percent from $96,675,444;
  • Greater Twin Cities United Way, Minneapolis, Minn., $91,211,996, up 2.2 percent from $89,215,904;
  • United of Greater St. Louis, St. Louis, Mo., $83,809,127, up 13.5 percent from $73,825,094;
  • United Way of Greater Houston, Houston, Texas, $81,297,189, up 5.5 percent from $77,079,571;
  • United Way of Greater Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio, $65,934,696, down 7.1 percent from $70,941,045;
  • United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pa., $64,517,368, up 10.6 percent from $58,355,062;
  • United Way of Greater Los Angeles, Los Angeles, Calif., $63,620,675, up 20.4 percent from $52,839,435;
  • United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, Chicago, Ill., $53,944,461, down 2.4 percent from $55,247,823; and,
  • United Way of Central Indiana, Indianapolis, Ind., $53,061,279, down 11.5 percent from $59,977,326.

Overall, approximately 423 United Way affiliates generated at least $1 million in public support in 2011, compared with 457 in the previous year’s report. The average among the 423 affiliates came to about $8.31 million.

Some 244 affiliates reported an increase in public support compared with about 172 that reported a decline. In all, those affiliates that raised at least $1 million reported total public support of $3.515 billion, up 1.625 percent more than their previous year’s total of $3.459 billion.

Median public support among affiliates was $2.973 million by United Way of Marathon County in Wausau, Wisc., which was up 4.8 percent from $2.836 million the prior year. The median percentage increase among affiliates was up 1.4 percent, experienced by United Way of South Texas in McAllen, Texas, which raised $4.051 million, up from $3.995 million.

Last year’s median aggregate total among affiliates reporting $1 million was $2.701 million, by Mentor, Ohio-based United Way of Lake County Ohio. Year-to-year comparisons can be deceiving because it’s not uncommon to have a significant swing from one year to the next, often based on only a few major gifts. For example, donors in King County’s Million Dollar Roundtable pay their commitment over five years but the full amount of the pledge gets logged into the fiscal year in which the commitment was made.

A couple of donors and companies decided for various reasons to wait until after the summer to make their pledge, and anything after June 30 is logged into the next year, according to Jared Erlandson, public relations manager for United Way of King County.

The top five affiliates by percentage increase from 2010 to 2011 were:

United Way of Fresno County, Fresno, Calif., +111 percent: $4,843,954, up from $2,677,999;United Way of Dutchess-Orange Region, Montgomery, N.Y., +71.2 percent: $2,682,443, up from $1,566,942;United Way of Eastern Maine, Bangor, Maine, +66.6 percent: $5,031,117, up from $3,019,947;United Way of Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas, Joplin, Mo., +58.5 percent: $2,005,990, up from $1,265,258; and,United Way of Southern Cameron County, Browns­ville, Texas, +55.3 percent: $2,345,148, up from $1,509,896.

Two Missouri-based affiliates were among those with the largest increases last year due in part to disaster relief fundraising in response to tornadoes in Joplin, Mo.

For United Way of Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas, the increase of almost 60 percent was related to disaster relief in response to the devastating tornadoes that struck the Joplin, Mo., area in the spring of 2011. Since a merger in 2010 between affiliates, Executive Director Bev Crespino-Graham said the chapter hopes to stay above the $1.2 million level. The Joplin, Mo.-based United Way has set a goal of $1.3 million for this year, she said, stressing that there’s still so much need after the storms.

Giving in response to the tornadoes also affected fundraising totals for Heart of Missouri United Way. The Columbia, Mo.-based affiliate saw the sixth-highest percentage increase in public support last year, just behind United Way of Southern Cameron County. Public support jumped by 49 percent, from $3.71 million in 2010 to $5.53 million in 2011. The $1.8-million increase was mostly due to fundraising for the Joplin tornado relief effort, Executive Director Tim Rich said.

United Way of Eastern Maine kicked off a planned giving effort last year, according to President and CEO John Kuropchak. The $2-million increase was the result of a gift to the endowment campaign from an anonymous donor in the area, he said.

Technically, United Way of Greater Clarksville Region had the largest increase in fundraising at almost 90 percent. But, that had more to do with how revenues were reported to the national headquarters. Campaign revenue from the 2011 Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) was included in reporting to United Way Worldwide — whereas it was not the year before under a previous administration – because it was the Principal Combined Fund Organization (PCFO), to administration under direction and control of Local Federal Coordinating Committee (LFCC), according to Executive Director Ginna Holleman. The affiliate kicked off its 2012-2013 campaign last month with a goal of $1 million.

It’s not uncommon to see some significant swings in data, and the percentage increases can be deceiving. For instance, among the largest percentage spikes a year ago was Manchester, N.H.-based Granite United Way, which seemingly doubled revenue. However, it was the result of a merger among four UW affiliates in New Hampshire.

Among the affiliates with the largest percentage decreases from 2010 to 2011 were:

United Way of Wabash Valley in Terre Haute, Ind.; down 57 percent at $2,058,405 from $4,783,080;United Way of Monroe County in Bloomington, Ind., down 34.6 percent at $1,492,189 compared to $2,282,681;Inland Empire United Way in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., down 32.6 percent at $5,071,812 from $7,523,904;United Way of Camden County in Camden, N.J., down 32.3 percent at $3,243,046 from $4,789,400; and,United Way of Muscatine in Muscatine, Iowa, down 26.6 percent at $1,106,287 from $1,507,418.

Two of the largest declines this year were at affiliates that had the largest increases last year. Inland Empire United Way jumped 66 percent to $7.5 million last year, from $4.5 million in 2009, mainly the result of a boost in in-kind donations, specifically for school-related programs.

Similarly, United Way of Wabash Valley, in Terre Haute, Ind., looked like one of the biggest gainers last year (up 111 percent) but the largest drop in support this year (down 57 percent). The affiliate received a $6-million grant from the state association of United Ways to deal with flooding in the region and most of the funds were received and spent during 2009. Outside of the $4.78 million in public support for 2010, Wabash Valley raised $2.2 million in public support in 2009 and $2.058 million last year. NPT

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