United Way Campaign drops thermometer gauge

Charity organization strives to raise more money, increase donors

Posted: Thursday, October 28, 2004

Don't look for the traditional large thermometer during this year's annual United Way campaign.

The United Way of Southeast Alaska is among agencies nationally that are changing their strategy about how to raise funds.

"United Ways across the nation are avoiding that thermometer approach," Executive Director Jodi Kilcup said.

When United Ways used the large billboard picture of a thermometer and did not meet the goal, Kilcup said, they lost credibility with the public.

The local United Way serves as a fund-raising clearinghouse for 32 human-service agencies in Southeast Alaska. It faced the shortfall dilemma in 2003 when it raised $403,635 after stating a goal of $625,000.

"Donors are very savvy," Kilcup said. "They're not going to give to push up that red line on the thermometer, but for what it will do for the community."

Instead of stating specific financial goals, Kilcup wants to increase the number of donors and dollars, she said. The campaign started Sept. 9 and runs through November.

About 90 companies are participating in the campaign this year.

Jim Jansen, president and chief executive of Linden, the parent company of Alaska Marine Lines, told employees he would dye his hair purple for one day if they raised double the amount from last year, said Judy McKenzie, vice president and controller of Linden. Alaska Marine Trucking, a division of Alaska Marine Lines, is located in Juneau.

McKenzie even had bought a can of Purple Poison Fright Night temporary hair color in case employees met the goal.

"We knew it was a big thing to ask, but we still had a successful campaign," McKenzie said.

In the end, employees failed to meet the mark, but raised about $13,000 more this year, she said. In 2002, employees raised $53,727 compared to $67,000 this year.

Jansen did match employee contributions dollar for dollar with personal funds, McKenzie said.

Likewise, First National Bank and KeyBank in Juneau are matching half of every employee dollar given, bank representatives said Wednesday.

First National raised $166,000 this year, up about 5 percent from last year, vice president Lloyd Johnson said. Employees donated $71,800, the bank gave $55,000 and a bank auction raised about $3,500.

First National has been a long-time supporter of United Way because it represents several member agencies, Johnson said.

"Dollars get to the people who need them," he said.

KeyBank will match dollar for dollar if employees give $1,000 or more, said administrative assistant DeLynn Hixson. KeyBank had no figures yet on the amount of money raised, she said.

Employee payroll deduction is the most popular mechanism, Kilcup said. It is effective because donors decide how much to have deducted over a period of time, she said.

Donors can instruct United Way to give to specific member agencies or let it decide who to support. The Glory Hole, the downtown Juneau soup kitchen, is the most popular agency for donations, Kilcup said.

Payroll deductions begin in January 2005 and run the calendar year. The first disbursement is made to member agencies in the spring.

• Tara Sidor can be reached at tara.sidor@juneauempire.com

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