Human Services and United Way of Central Indiana and Corporate Philanthropy and Charities and Donors and Foundations and Funders and Fundraising and Philanthropy

United Way turns to coupons to lure donors

August 12, 2011

United Way of Central Indiana will try to reverse a decline in donations this year by offering donors discounts at national and local retailers.

The local organization, which supports more than 100 human-service agencies, is several weeks away from announcing its 2011 campaign goal, but it’s already rolling out incentives.

People who give at least $150 will be allowed to enroll in Caring Club, which gives them access to deals from retailers such as Costco, Zales and the NFL fan shop.

The local United Way last year raised $38.2 million, which was short of its $41 million goal and slightly less than the previous year’s $38.8 million.

In addition to fewer dollars, the group saw a continued decline in the number of donors, which fell 3 percent, to 73,318.

United Way gets 98 percent of its donations through workplace campaigns, but as Eli Lilly and Co. and other big corporations downsize, the organization is trying to appeal directly to the general public.

“This trend in donor-loss is nationwide,” CEO Ellen Annala said. “Everybody is trying lots of things.”

Last year, United Way launched a promotion with the Indianapolis Colts in which first-time donors who gave at least $150 and past donors who upped their giving by that amount were entered to win a trip to the Super Bowl.

The Colts sponsorship helped United Way land 20,189 new donors, a 4-percent increase over the previous year, Annala said. The Colts will sponsor United Way and give away Super Bowl tickets again this year. 

Another benefit to the Caring Club, which was launched by United Way in Boston, is it creates an additional reason to communicate with donors on a regular basis outside the workplace, Annala said.

She hopes that will keep donors involved with United Way longer. “It’s not just increasing the numbers,” she said. “It’s increasing the relationship.”

The decline in giving last year prompted United Way to cut its funding to agencies and trim three positions from its own staff, which now consists of the equivalent of 97 full-time employees, Annala said. She said the next fundraising goal, to be announced in September, will be less ambitious but higher than the amount raised last year.

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