The Mesa United Way kicks off its fund-raising campaign this month, and for the first time in its 67-year history its goal won’t be based on dollars raised, but on the number of people giving.
And the giant thermometer showing money raised won’t be posted outside Mesa City Plaza this year. It will be replaced by a yet-to-be finalized series of signs and banners encouraging those who have not given in the past to get into the habit.
Spurred by a study showing declining United Way participation nationwide, the Mesa agency is asking participating employers to boost by 10 percent the number of their workers who chip in.
A survey this year of the 327 area employers who participated in the last campaign projected that contributions for the upcoming cycle would be down $350,000, largely because there are fewer employees to tap in a continued weak economy. The last campaign barely managed to beat its $4.5 million goal.
Mesa United Way president Caro l McCormack said $800,000 of funding requests for "basic, core needs" couldn’t be filled after the last campaign ended this spring. "We were meeting our goal, but we weren’t meeting our objective," she said.
At the same time, McCormack said, she was disturbed by national United Way figures showing the percentage of contributing employees plunging from 46 percent in 1989 to 30 percent in 2001.
McCormack doesn’t know whether there has been a corresponding drop in Mesa. "We never asked them to look at that issue," she said.
This time that issue is at the core of the campaign. The companies that provided the rate of participating employees have given figures from 3 percent to 100 percent.
Mesa United Way also is setting a two-year goal of securing 1,000 donors giving at least $1,000. Toward this end, Boeing will match all new $1,000 contributions and increases to existing $1,000 contributions, up to $150,000.
The Valley’s two United Ways are coming off one of their most difficult
fundraising years in history.
The Valley of the Sun United Way, which serves the rest of the area, set for itself a $47 million goal Tuesday at a Bank One Ballpark kickoff in Phoenix. That was the total collected through last year’s campaign, which set a record but fell $2 million short of the goal.
Valley of the Sun spokeswoman Nicole Magnuson said her counterparts are looking for new barometers. "United Ways across the country are looking hard at what we do, beyond what we already do well. How do we measure success beyond fund raising and efficiency?" she said.
Mesa United Way’s official kickoff and annual luncheon will be Sept. 22 at the Hilton Phoenix East/Mesa Hotel.
For more information, call (480) 834-8184.