Column: Atlanta’s United Way reaches its 2010 campaign goal

By Maria Saporta
Friday, March 11, 2011

United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta will announce March 11 that it has met its annual campaign goal for the first time since the 2007 campaign — albeit by a slim margin.

The 2010 goal had been set at $80.2 million, and United Way leaders will announce that it raised $24,500 over their goal.

The campaign was led by John Somerhalder, CEO of AGL Resources Inc., who had agreed to lead the campaign two years in a row.

“It took me two years to get it basically right,” Somerhalder said. “Every step along the way, we felt better about the campaign. But it was just as heart-wrenching.”

Publix Super Markets Inc. continued as the top donor in the annual campaign, raising more than $5 million for the second year in a row.

The other top donors basically tracked the contributions of previous years. Giving at the $4 million level and above were the Combined Federal Campaign (all federal government agencies); AT&T
and United Parcel Service Inc.

Those giving in the $2 million and $3 million levels were: SunTrust Banks Inc, The Coca-Cola Co.and Georgia Power -Southern Co.

The companies giving at least $1 million included one new addition: Genuine Parts Co. The others were Wells Fargo & Co., IBM Corp., GE, AGL Resources, Deloitte, QuikTrip, Delta Air Lines Inc., Bank of America, Ernst & Young LLP, Kroger Co. and the State Charitable Campaign.

Campaigns in a few sectors did suffer — primarily in the legal area, construction and real estate.

But Milton Little, president of Atlanta’s United Way, did say that one sector that did surprisingly well was banking, led by SunTrust.

Several companies launched campaigns for the first time, including: UCB, the Weather Channel, MedAssets and IntercontinentalExchange (ICE).

Other success stories: Enterprise had a 24 percent increase in its annual campaign; Novelis Inc., an aluminum company, raised $38,000 in 2009 and $115,000 in 2010, a 211 percent increase; Newell Rubbermaid Inc. increased its giving by $100,000 over the year before in only its second year running an employee campaign.

And AGL had nearly 100 percent participation in its employee campaign, raising $500,443 for the first time ever. AGL’s corporate gift was $800,000, including $300,000 for energy assistance programs.

The 2011 campaign will be chaired by Richard Anderson, CEO of Delta Air Lines. Bonnie Cole, who oversees the campaign for United Way, said that in 2010, Delta had its “first real active campaign” that the airline has had in years.

“We are extremely happy with where we came out this year,” said Somerhalder, who is hopeful that Anderson will be able to increase the campaign goal amount after several flat years. “I’m optimistic it will be more.”

United Way leaders will celebrate their victory with a Day of Action March 11, a volunteer effort where hundreds are expected to perform community work in the Atlanta Promise Neighborhood near Morehouse College.

There also will be an invitation-only luncheon ceremony at Archer Hall where Somerhalder will officially announce the 2010 results and Anderson will preview the 2011 campaign.

Truett Cathy’s 90th birthday

One doesn’t turn 90 every day. So Chick-fil-A Inc. executives began thinking several years ago of how they could honor founder Truett Cathy on that occasion.

On Thursday, March 10, they were scheduled to hold a star-studded evening celebration at the Woodruff Arts Center co-chaired by the Cathy family, former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young and developer Tom Cousins. (The last Atlantan to celebrate his 90th birthday at the arts center was Coca-Cola’s Robert W. Woodruff.)

But Chick-fil-A leaders wanted to do more. In honor of Cathy, they will create a “legacy” community project in the central city to “inspire Atlanta’s youth to believe in themselves and their future.”

In an interview before the event, Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy and Steven Robinson, the company’s chief marketing officer, outlined the project they have in mind.

If all goes according to plan, the project would end up being an intown version of the nationally known Camp WinShape located at Berry College in Rome. They have been exploring possible locations around the Atlanta University Center, including existing but under-used facilities on the Morris Brown campus.

“We would have loved to have announced exactly where it’s going to be on Thursday night, but we are just not there yet,” Dan Cathy said. “We have been wanting to do this for a long time.”

The Truett Cathy Youth and Community Center also would be modeled after the East Lake community transformation headed by Cousins.

The center would have a three-pronged mission: to offer a complex with multiple sports; to become a community resource that can help strengthen families; and to provide financial training by partnering with Junior Achievement of Georgia.

“One element we want to do is to build a Junior Achievement Biz Town, which is a town center with a bank and shops,” Cathy said. “There are 13 around the country but there’s not one in Atlanta.”

Robinson said that the Cathy family has been able to learn from its involvement at Camp WinShape on how best to offer physical, emotional and educational support for young people and their families. It will be a “multifaceted community” complex that will be open year-round.

“Dan has said this is a family-owned business run by families and dedicated to serving families,” Robinson said. To that, Dan Cathy said: “We will help families strengthen families.”

Neither Robinson or Cathy would disclose how much they plan to invest in the community center, saying that much will depend on the final location. “It will be sizable,” Robinson said.

By the way, at the 90th birthday party, Truett Cathy gave each guest an excerpt from his new book, “Wealth: Is It Worth It?”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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