United Way reports increase in giving
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The United Way of Allegheny County announced yesterday that, despite the weak economy, it raised more than $31 million in its latest campaign, a small increase over the previous year.
"Our community has responded in a remarkable way given the times we face," said Art Rooney II, United Way board chairman and president of the Steelers.
The announcement was made at the Omni William Penn Hotel, Downtown, yesterday to approximately 400 fundraising campaign leaders, employee volunteers and donors, union leaders and agency representatives.
"When we started this campaign, I was really concerned we wouldn't get close to last year's amount," said Dr. Kenneth Melani, CEO of Highmark Inc. and the United Way 2008 campaign chairman. Many United Way chapters around the country reported their campaign totals were down 4 to 5 percent, Allegheny County representatives said.
United Way raised $31,231,711 this year, compared to $31,022,233 during its 2007 campaign. It raised $29,842,001 in 2006 and $30,094,431 in 2005. The 2008 over 2007 increase was less than 1 percent.
"Our goal is always to raise more money than the prior year, both in total and for the Impact Fund," said Linda Jones, the vice president for workplace campaigns at United Way of Allegheny County. "We're extremely happy that in this difficult economic time, there was an increase in donors as well as dollars. Our goal is to involve as many corporations as we can."
Facing a weakened economy that made it harder for people to give large amounts, United Way focused its efforts on local leadership groups and corporate campaign managers, but also on increasing the number of donors.
"To us, it didn't matter how much their gift was," said Bob Nelkin, president and chief professional officer of United Way of Allegheny County. "It didn't matter it wasn't a huge gift. Every gift counted."
More than 58,000 donors and 720 companies around Pittsburgh contributed to the 2008 campaign.
Mr. Rooney said people in Pittsburgh have "a great community spirit and big hearts."
"They recognize the time when their neighbors need them and have a history of stepping up, and this year was no exception," he said.
United Way was able to exceed the 2007 campaign figures thanks to the generosity of the "average person" in Pittsburgh, they said.
"That's just been the tradition of Pittsburgh," said Dr. Melani, a Pittsburgh native. "I think that's the culture we come from."
Although United Way raised more than they thought possible in a struggling economy, the needs here, and nationally, are still outpacing the donations.
Mr. Nelkin called it a "double whammy."
"The needs for human services are increased, and the charitable dollars are decreased," he said.
This year United Way saw a 141 percent increase in calls to its Allegheny County HelpLine from local families who needed assistance with their housing, food or utility bills.
"We are doing some extraordinary things to prevent mortgage foreclosures, evictions of renters, preventing utility shut-offs, helping people get back on their feet and into the work force, and we'll be emphasizing this [for next year's campaign] because this is really what the community cares about," Mr. Nelkin said.
United Way's annual campaign began in September and ended in April.
First Published June 19, 2009 12:00 am