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United Way’s Fund-Raising Goal Reduced

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SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Reacting to the realities of corporate mergers and military downsizing, the United Way of Ventura County adjusted to the county’s changing business climate Thursday by announcing a fund-raising goal lower than last year’s target.

This year’s fund-raising goal of $5.35 million--$150,000 under the goal last year--was revealed at the official kickoff lunch for United Way’s 1996-97 campaign at Oxnard’s Performing Arts Center.

United Way officials said the organization struggled to meet its goal last year, but fell $300,000 short. They said local problems reflect a national trend of declining revenues for charities because of business mergers and Defense Department cuts.

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Staff members said mergers and downsizing in areas of the local economy ranging from banks to the oil and aerospace industries have made it more difficult to raise funds from local companies.

One major loss, they said, was the disappearance of the Bank of A Levy, which merged with First Interstate, which later merged with Wells Fargo--leaving United Way with one bank where once there were three.

The loss of some major donors to United Way during the 1990s means the group now has to reach out to more companies to raise the same amount of money raised in the past.

“Before we might have been able to reach out to 500 employees in one [company] campaign,” said the organization’s communication manager, Debbie Giles. “Now we’re having to hold five campaigns to reach the same amount of employees. So it requires more time and resources.”

As part of its efforts to keep donations as high as possible, the United Way has made a greater effort to reach out to new organizations as they set up business in the county, officials said.

One of the biggest increases in contributions last year came from Technicolor Video Services in Camarillo. The company contributed about $38,000, an increase of 57% over its initial amounts when the firm began contributing in 1993, officials said.

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Amgen, the Thousand Oaks bio-pharmaceutical giant, has also become one of the major companies whose contributions have grown with the result of corporate growth, as opposed to the downsizing of other firms. Amgen donated $200,000 last year, a 15% increase from 1993.

More than 185 leaders from companies and agencies that receive funds from United Way of Ventura County attended the kickoff ceremony. The group provides money to 62 health and human service agencies in the county.

Bryon Rimm, plant manager of Oxnard’s Procter & Gamble’s division and co-chairman for the pre-fund-raising campaign that has been trying to raise 10% of this year’s goal, told the group that the companies donating to United Way often end up getting benefits back.

“Many of our own workers use the services that United Way contributes money to,” Rimm said. “We have long held that United Way is the most efficient at demonstrating corporate stewardship.”

Tim McCallison, chairman of the pre-campaign fund-raiser and a representative for GTE, called the $5.35-million goal “ambitious but achievable,” but acknowledged that the loss of money from military cutbacks and bank mergers has made meeting the goal a lot more difficult.

Since 1990, the Defense Department has reduced military personnel in Ventura County by 4% each year, cutting the number of local residents who are potential donors.

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