Column: United Way’s 2010 campaign goal: $80.2 million

By Maria Saporta
Friday, September 17, 2010

The 2010 campaign goal for Metro Atlanta’s United Way has been set — $80.2 million.

The campaign goal will be announced officially at United Way’s campaign kickoff on Sept. 22. But 2010 Campaign Chairman John Somerhalder, CEO of AGL Resources Inc., gave a recent interview with Atlanta Business Chronicle explaining his rationale behind setting that goal.

“Things do appear better across the board,” Somerhalder said. “There’s quite a bit more stability this year, even though there are still challenges in this economy.”

Somerhalder is in his repeat performance as campaign chair. He led the 2009 campaign, which ended up raising $78.7 million, about 2 percent less than the $80.5 million 2009 goal.

Although the 2010 campaign kickoff is a bit later than usual, Somerhalder said that individual corporate campaigns already are under way.

Also, United Way used to hold a “victory” event in December to announce whether it had reached its goal. But United Way President Milton Little has pushed that back to March when the organization has a much clearer picture of how much money has been raised.

Bonnie Cole, who organizes the campaign for United Way, said that companies running national campaigns have been needing more time to break out local community giving.

In a speech to the Rotary Club of Atlanta on Sept. 13, Somerhalder expressed his hopes for the 2010 campaign.

“It is very important for us to show measurable progress from where we were last year,” Somerhalder said. “As you all know, a lot of companies are doing well, but unemployment is still high.”

The economy has increased demand for the social services that United Way agencies provide. “Unemployment rates still aren’t improving,” Little said. “I wish I could say the needs are diminishing, but I can’t say that.”

Somerhalder, who is the first person in the history of Atlanta’s United Way to chair two consecutive campaigns, made it clear he will not be signing on for a third. Delta Air Lines Inc. CEO Richard Anderson already has agreed to chair the 2011 campaign.

Skinner honored

Business and civic leader Frank Skinner received the Rotary Club of Atlanta’s Service Above Self Award Sept. 13.

Skinner is a retired Southern Bell and BellSouth Corp. executive and was president of Atlanta Rotary in 1993-94. He chaired Atlanta’s United Way campaign in 1988, and he also chaired United Way campaigns in Charlotte and Miami.

Recently, Skinner received the James Blanchard Business Ethics Award. He was the inspiration behind the Rotary Club’s Interfaith Business Prayer Breakfast, which will be held Oct. 7 at the Hyatt Regency and will feature Morehouse College President Robert Franklin as keynote speaker.

Civil Rights Center delayed

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights has pushed back its scheduled opening from the end of 2012 to the end of 2013.

Doug Shipman, CEO of the center, said that his board has pledged not to break ground until it has raised at least 80 percent of the construction costs of the project.

Seventy million dollars for the center has been raised, and Shipman told the Atlanta Kiwanis Club on Sept. 14 that it needs another $15 million before construction can begin.

Shipman said the center expects that it will be able to break ground toward the end of next year, and that it will take two years to build the attraction.

“The economic reality has made every project that I know of, including ours, do two things — you have to work harder to raise money, and you have to make sure your economic model is going to work,” Shipman said. “We have said we were not going to break ground until we know we can build the center without debt. It’s the prudent thing to do.”

During his talk, Shipman made an impassioned argument of why the center is critically important for Atlanta, the nation and the world. Not only will the center focus on the rich history of Atlanta’s role in the Civil Rights Movement, it also will tackle modern day human and civil rights issues and become a place where people can resolve their differences and reach consensus.

“The reason I do this work is so we don’t kill each other,” Shipman said. “I do this work so we only talk about issues and not kill each other over them.”

Gellerstedt joins GRA

The Georgia Research Alliance is keeping it in the family. One of the founders of the public-private organization that supports cutting-edge research and development was the late Larry Gellerstedt Jr., then CEO of Beers Construction.

At GRA’s last meeting, the board invited his son, Larry Gellerstedt III, to be a director of the prestigious group of six research institutions. Gellerstedt is CEO of Cousins Properties Inc.

The GRA board also is inviting John Somerhalder II — chairman, president and CEO of AGL Resources — to join its board. The leadership positions will remain as is with Regions Bank’s Bill Linginfelter as chairman and General Electric Co.’s John Rice as vice chairman.

Civic League meeting

The Civic League of Regional Atlanta will hold its second annual Neighborhood Summit on Sept. 25 at the Loudermilk Conference Center in downtown Atlanta.

This year’s theme will be: “Neighborhood Connections, Regional Voices.” The summit will include representatives from 10 metro counties, and about 700 people are expected to attend.

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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