United Way Just Misses Goal, Raises Record $85.5 Million

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles area United Way, the nation’s largest, raised a record $85.5 million in pledges in its current campaign, up $7.3 million from last year, campaign chairman Walter F. Beran announced Tuesday.

Despite the 9.5% increase in pledges, however, the campaign fell $500,000 short of United Way Inc.'s ambitious goal of $86 million for 1986, the sixth time in seven years that the organization has increased pledges but missed its goal.

The increased support will mean modest increases in allocations to United Way’s 349 health and human services agencies and an additional $730,000 to finance new projects. It will also make it possible for a few more nonprofit organizations to be admitted as members.

Beran, a vice chairman of the Ernst & Whinney accounting firm, praised Francis X. McNamara Jr., United Way’s president, and the thousands of campaign volunteers who “remained fresh even though we kept the campaign going longer than ever before.” In recent years, campaign results have been announced in January or February.


Volunteers Show Persistence

Beran, who hosted a party for 600 United Way volunteers at the Music Center Tuesday night, said he was surprised that “our campaign volunteers didn’t burn out with such a long campaign.”

He suggested that United Way curtail its system of running a continuous year-round campaign, a holdover from its merger with a competing group in 1979. Instead, he urged a return to the traditional campaign lasting several months, probably this fall.

Because of layoffs and reduced profits at some firms that have been longtime supporters, Beran said, United Way experienced “the largest shortfall in existing accounts that we have ever had.” Beran said support from the companies, which he did not identify, fell by about $1.2 million.


But those losses were nearly offset by efforts to broaden the base of United Way supporters. Beran said 3,500 individuals and 450 businesses made first-time gifts, and 200 companies allowed their workers to be solicited for the first time--generating about $1 million, or 1.2% of the total pledges.

Beran recommended creating a specialized office to seek expansion of the base of workers and companies solicited to support United Way.

And, he urged United Way to “invest in the future” by hiring additional staff to support an expanded corps of volunteers. This strategy would increase the percentage of revenue spent on fund raising for a few years, he said, but is essential to long-term growth.

‘Fantastically Large Community’

“This is a fantastically large community,” Beran said, “and the problem is, how do we get our arms around it? We are devoting more time to reaching more people to be donors and volunteers and I think we will be devoting even more time to that in the future.”

His remarks come as United Way of America is urging the 2,200 local United Ways to double their volunteer and financial resources in five years, beginning in 1987, the 100th anniversary of the federated fund-raising movement begun in Denver by two Protestant ministers, a rabbi and a Roman Catholic priest.

Overall, United Ways nationwide collected $2.33 billion in pledges this year, a 9.5% increase, a United Way of America spokesman said.

Other major Southern California United Ways did better than the national average. United Way of Orange County met its $18.4-million goal, a 12% increase. The San Diego United Way/Combined Health Agencies Drive reached its $22-million goal, a 10% increase. United Way of Ventura County surpassed its goal of $5.3 million, an 18% increase over last year.