Finding Their Way

Posted: October 02, 1998

The folks in charge of the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania stopped by our offices yesterday, just after kicking off another community ``day of caring'' - actually, two days of public service projects intended both to help those in need and to spotlight the fact that United Way is more than just a fund-raiser.

Too often, though, fund-raising is all that comes to mind when the regional human services agency is mentioned. The folks in charge know that. The new chairman of the United Way board - the ubiquitous David L. Cohen - especially knows that. After watching the business community from a distance, when he was Mayor Rendell's No. 2 for five years, Mr. Cohen says he is certain that much of the private sector remains unaware of the scope and magnitude of United Way's mission.

So while the agency is knee-deep in its annual campaign, hoping to raise more than last year's $51 million, it also is studying what its role should be in the future. How can the United Way, built on soliciting through the workplace, still raise the money it needs when corporations are doing a disappearing act and more people are free agents in the workforce?

How can more donors be persuaded to support United Way's unique role as the only conduit of undesignated dollars - funds that can be invested in quiet, effective social service agencies unknown outside their neighborhoods?

These are just a couple of the issues facing United Way - and, fortunately, United Way is facing them head-on. With a refreshing candor and energy, the venerable institution seems to understand that it can't stand still.

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