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Column: Atlanta’s United Way aims for a greater good with new name

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Friday, September 7, 2012

For metro Atlanta’s United Way, it’s a new day with a new name, a new theme and an ambitious new campaign goal.

The umbrella social and human services charitable organization is changing its name from the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta to the United Way of Greater Atlanta.

It’s more than a simple name change. For United Way, it’s a way to hold out an aspirational goal that the Atlanta region can be greater. In fact, it will be launching a new “Be Greater Atlanta” campaign in January to better reflect its efforts to improve the health, education, income and housing of Atlanta’s residents.

“It’s an aspiration that all of us can embrace,” said Milton Little, president of Atlanta’s United Way, about the name change that was approved unanimously by its board on Aug. 30. “How can we be better than we are? This is all about looking forward.”

Little said he hopes the new name and campaign will “inspire more volunteer activities and will inspire more folks to become more actively engaged in improving our community.”

Traditionally, metro Atlanta’s United Way has been defined by its annual fund-raising campaign — an effort supported by hundreds of companies and individuals raising money that is invested in dozens of charitable organizations.

Little and other United Way leaders have been working hard to broaden the public understanding of all the ways that the organization works to help people and families in need.

Still, the annual campaign is critical to United Way’s ability to fulfill its goals.

Kevin Greiner, president and CEO of Gas South, who is chairing the 2012 campaign, was scheduled to announce United Way’s goal at the kickoff event on Sept. 6 at Turner Field before the Atlanta Braves game.

The goal? $80.7 million. The goal is a slight increase over the 2011 campaign goal of $80.4 million, which was chaired by Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson.

Even though metro Atlanta’s economy continues to struggle, Greiner said the members of the campaign cabinet still believed they could increase the goal.

“It was really based on our CEO calls,” Greiner said. “We reached out to our largest supporters, we did a bottoms-up analysis on what we can expect from the employee campaigns, and we have gotten some good indications that a lot of campaigns will grow.”

Among the most promising sectors are the banks; logistics companies such as United Parcel Service; and national companies, including No. 1 donor Publix Super Markets, AT&T and IBM.

One sector that is expected to be weaker is government — mainly because of budget and staff cuts.

“We will probably see some pain in the public sector — federal, state and local governments,” Little said. “But they are all committed to doing the best they can.”

Metro Chamber fundraiser

The Atlanta business community will be thanking Gov. Nathan Deal by showing him the money.

The Metro Atlanta Chamber will be hosting a fundraiser for Gov. Nathan Deal on its rooftop on Tuesday, Sept. 18, at an evening reception.

In an email to Metro Atlanta Chamber’s board members, President Sam Williams stated all the reasons why they should support the governor.

“As you are aware, Governor Deal is a true friend to the business community and passed landmark legislation this year to spur economic development,” Williams wrote. “His substantial commitment to creating new reservoirs addresses one of our region’s and state’s biggest challenges. He was also an ardent supporter of the regional transportation referendum.”

Williams went on to say that “the metro Atlanta business community has a unique opportunity to show our support to the Governor this fall. Please join me in supporting Governor Deal by agreeing to serve as a host for this event — suggested host investment $2,500 with a commitment to raise another $2,500.”

Cobb County trip

The Cobb Chamber of Commerce is planning its own mini LINK trip.

In April, LINK — an annual visit to other cities by leaders in the Atlanta region — went on a three-day visit to Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Arlington, Va., to learn how that complex metro area handles its growth and development.

Now, the Cobb Chamber is inviting its business leaders to participate in a three-day “Opportunity Fairfax” visit in its “first-ever Leadership Visit and Conference” to Fairfax County from Sunday, Oct. 21, to Wednesday, Oct. 24.

“The purpose of this leadership exchange program is to take a select group of Cobb and metro Atlanta’s leaders in government, business, and education to other metro counties and regions to explore innovative ideas and programs which have helped to build partnerships to impact positive community change,” according to an invitation letter signed by Cobb Chamber Chair Tony Britton and President David Connell.

“In many ways, Fairfax County, Va. is a picture of what Cobb may be 10-15 years from now in terms of growth, diversity, economic development, transportation, revitalization, arts and culture and more,” the letter continued.

One big difference is that LINK includes more than 100 metro leaders.

The Cobb visit to Fairfax will be limited to 30 people.

Korn/Ferry addition

Search consultant Zack Deming recently joined Korn/Ferry International’s Atlanta office to help build its Global Logistics & Transportation Services practice.

Deming had been with the Heidrick & Struggles search firm from 2010 to 2012 before joining Korn/Ferry. Interestingly enough, Deming’s father-in-law is Pat Pittard, the flamboyant search consultant who had headed the Atlanta office of Heidrick & Struggles, where he worked for 19 years until 2002.

ToolBank board expands

Helen Vollmer, president of Houston-based Edelman Southwest, has been appointed to the board of Atlanta-based ToolBank USA.

ToolBank USA is creating a network of ToolBanks across the country, offering high-quality tools for civic organizations to borrow so they can increase the impact of community service projects.

“Since learning about ToolBank USA I have been excited to be a part of the expansion of this model nationally,” Vollmer said. “The ToolBank concept is one whose time has come. ToolBank USA’s relentless focus on providing excellent customer service to civic and charitable organizations is unparalleled. I see tremendous growth potential for the organization to become an integral component of this country’s vibrant spirit of service, and I’m particularly pleased to see the Houston ToolBank developing in my hometown.”

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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