- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Some of Virginia's United Way groups are reporting that they have not met fall campaign goals, while others are meeting or exceeding the goals, but all agree that it has been a challenging year.
Executives of the local nonprofit umbrella groups say the sluggish economy has been the biggest obstacle to their fund raising this year, with corporate closings and downsizings reducing contributions and adding to demand for services.
Sharon Saari, executive director of Piedmont United Way in Culpeper, said the group has had a steep drop in contributions compared with last year.
"We're at about 50 percent of where we should be," she said. "Here in Culpeper, a couple of large manufacturers have closed up and put people out of work. They are the ones who are calling for help now."
Frank Rogan, president of the United Way of the Roanoke Valley, said that group extended its campaign deadline, but still fell about $600,000 short of its $6.5 million goal.
He agreed that the problem is mostly related to the economy.
"When employees don't get raises or when the cost of their benefits goes up, they feel less like giving," he said. "And when the stock market goes down, the amount people give to charity goes down."
Nationally, about half of all nonprofits had a decline in contributions through the first 10 months of the year, according to a recent survey by Williamsburg-based Philanthropic Research Inc., which maintains the Guidestar database of nonprofit organizations. An additional 22 percent reported that contributions remain about the same, compared to the same period last year.
Charity organizers also said many communities have unique circumstances that help them overcome shortfalls caused by plant closings, layoffs and changes in corporate giving policies.
For example, the United Way of South Hampton Roads has reached 90 percent of its goal, and it will slightly exceed its goal of collecting $17.7 million.
The charity's Katherine Overkamp said South Hampton Roads has many military people and federal employees who, through the Combined Federal Campaign, will contribute about $4.5 million of this year's $17.7 million total.
She also said more people than companies are donating.
"If we were dependent on corporate contributions, we might be down, too," Miss Overkamp said.
Those unique circumstances have also worked against some United Way groups serving Virginia.
Questions about financial and management practices involving the former executive director of the United Way of the National Capital Area, which serves several Northern Virginia localities, has led to a steep decline in donations in a region with a relatively strong economy.
The questions led a number of companies to give to other philanthropic organizations. Corporate giving is down at least $10 million from last year, said Lori Kline, the group's spokeswoman.
Meanwhile, the Richmond area United Way is about $800,000 short of its $21.3 million goal this year. Officials blamed the shortfall on the slow economy and layoffs. More than 280 job losses in the area had been reported to the Virginia Employment Commission.
"When people have a lot, they give a lot," Miss Saari said. "When things feel tight, they tend to cut back."

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