Thursday, August 14, 2003

More givers sought locally

United Way wants wider base

The Cincinnati Enquirer

After failing to reach a $62 million goal last year, United Way of Greater Cincinnati organizers acknowledge this year's annual fund drive will be a challenge.

But when the campaign kicks off Sept. 4 with a caravan from Fountain Square to Clermont County, officials are confident they will be able overcome economic hurdles and connect with new and old donors alike.

"We know the challenges we will face in this economic climate," co-chairs Michael and Suzette Fisher said Wednesday. "We know there will also be challenges ahead for our social and human service agencies. Our plan focuses on broadening the base of givers to the United Way and reaching beyond the corporate world to make significant increases."

Last year, the United Way cut funds to roughly 65 percent of its 342 core service programs for 2003. Most of the programs were reduced by 1 to 15 percent.

Organizers fell short of their goal by $1.8 million, the first time since 1992 that the Greater Cincinnati fund-raising campaign failed to meet or exceed its goal.

Four agencies lost all funding: Queen City/Mitchell Mental Health Services, Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman of Cincinnati Inc., Transportation Resource & Information Project (TRIP) and the Brown County Life Squad & Rescue Association.

Despite that outcome, United Way officials said the $60.2 million raised was remarkable given a sluggish economy and challenging business environment.

Now, organizers say they are ready with new strategies and have begun meeting with business and community leaders for help on the campaign, which will end Oct. 30.

"Through the generosity and commitment of the people in our region, the United Way will continue to make possible the changes that matter in improving people's lives," the Fishers said.

The Fishers are the first husband-and-wife team to lead the fund drive. They have been active in United Way for 16 years, including chairing related fund drives and serving as vice chairs for last year's drive.

Michael Fisher is president of the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and has served three terms on the United Way board of directors since 1993. Suzette Fisher was on the board of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, a United Way Organization, and is vice president of education at Yavneh Day School.

The United Way funds more than 160 agencies.

The United Way of Greater Cincinnati covers Hamilton, Clermont, Brown and Butler counties in Ohio; and Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties in Kentucky.

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