Column: Publix again bags top spot for United Way

By Maria Saporta
Friday, March 5, 2010

For the first time ever, the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta Inc. has a $5 million donor — Publix Super Markets Inc.

The grocery store company, already the top donor last year raising $4.69 million, experienced an 8.5 percent increase in its United Way campaign, to top $5 million.

“Publix just continues to amaze us,” said Bonnie Cole, senior vice president of resource development for Atlanta’s United Way.

That was one of the bright spots of the 2009 campaign, which fell slightly short of its $80.5 million goal. United Way was scheduled to hold its campaign celebration March 4, but as of press time, it did not have a final campaign number.

“We hate the fact that we are short, but all things considered, we did pretty well,” said Milton Little, president of United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta. “One word I have consistently used as we were going through the highs and lows is ‘resilient.’ With all that we have gone through, we’ve had very little change in our top donors.”

By comparison to Atlanta’s slight decrease, Little said there are United Ways around the country that have experienced declines of 5 percent, 10 percent and even 15 percent from the year before.

Nationally, another major milestone was hit. Wells Fargo, following the merger with Wachovia, became the nation’s top donor becoming the first $60 million donor ever. The bank replaced Atlanta-based United Parcel Service Inc., which has held those bragging rights for years.

Locally, Wachovia, a Wells Fargo Co., returned to the million-dollar rank after having fallen off that list for a year.

Other highlights of the 2009 campaign were three campaigns that enjoyed double-digit increases.

AGL Resources Inc.’s campaign increased by 17 percent to the $1.3 million level. That could partly be attributed to the fact that John Somerhalder, AGL’s CEO, served as the United Way campaign chair. Somerhalder also has agreed to stay on and chair the 2010 campaign.

Printpack Inc. enjoyed an increase of 13.5 percent, raising about $450,000; and Rollins Inc. had a 12 percent increase with a campaign totaling about $800,000.

The Marriott Marquis was the single-largest hotel contributor in the country, raising $45,000.

Kaiser Permanente of Georgia Inc. contributed about $400,000 for United Way’s efforts to increase access to health care, an increase from about $150,000 the year before.

Newell Rubbermaid Inc., one of metro Atlanta’s relatively new Fortune 500 headquarters, ran its first employee campaign. It raised about $260,000 in its employee and corporate donations. In all, United Way received a total of about $600,000 in contributions from new company donors.

Gas South, which launched its first campaign in 2008, nearly tripled its contributions from $11,000 to $32,000.

Gas South’s Kevin Greiner is leading the United Way campaign in Cobb County.

Publix wasn’t the only retailer to increase its campaign numbers. The Kroger Co., already a million-dollar donor, increased its contributions by 2.3 percent.

Looking to 2010, Little said it was going to be a “dog fight,” because of double-digit unemployment and anxiety in the work force. But again Little used the word “resilient,” to describe Atlanta. “The companies that have been consistently generous to us and have been leading the pack are still there,” he said.

Although the final audited numbers won’t be completed until June 30, United Way does know which companies are in the million-dollar categories.

After Publix with $5 million, there are two campaigns bringing in at least $4 million: the Combined Federal Campaign and AT&T Inc.

Two companies are in the $3 million category: UPS and The Coca-Cola Co. And two companies are at the $2 million level: SunTrust Banks Inc. and Georgia Power Co./Southern Co.

In addition of AGL, Wachovia and Kroger, rounding out the million-dollar donors are IBM Corp., Deloitte, GE companies, State Charitable Program, Ernst & Young LLP, QuikTrip Corp., Cox Enterprises Inc. and related companies, Bank of America, King & Spalding LLP and Delta Air Lines Inc.

Delta CEO Richard Anderson will chair the United Way campaign in 2011.

Hunger Walk/Run

The Atlanta restaurant industry is playing a key role in this year’s Hunger Walk/Run on March 14 at Turner Field.

Robby Kukler, a partner of Fifth Group Restaurants, and Ron Wolf, executive director of the Georgia Restaurant Association, have created a “turnkey package” to help restaurants participate in the 2010 Hunger Walk/Run. Both Kukler and Wolf serve on the advisory board of the Atlanta Community Food Bank.

The original goal was to sign up 50 restaurants and raise $150,000. According to Food Bank spokeswoman Angie Clawson, 100 restaurants have signed up and will support the Hunger Walk with teams. “This fundraising program is the first of its kind, as far as I know, in Atlanta,” Clawson wrote in an e-mail.

Sustainable Atlanta sustained

Sustainable Atlanta has received a $50,000 grant from the UPS Foundation to help support two initiatives of the organization. The first is a policy initiative for the Energy Taskforce, a group of academic, business, civic, governmental and nonprofit leaders working to minimize Atlanta’s carbon footprint.

The second initiative is to help Sustainable Atlanta establish a metric dashboard to track its progress and to help fund the second sustainability report for the city of Atlanta.

Becker first for Ferst

The favorite executive reader in Atlanta is — Mark Becker, president of Georgia State University. Becker received the inaugural “For the Love of Reading” award from the Ferst Foundation and its Childhood Literacy efforts March 1.

Becker read “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” to preschool children at a child development center at GSU campus. Eight other CEOs participated in the competition.

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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