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THE RECESSION

Area United Way Will Slash Fees To Help Nonprofit Groups Cope

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By Megan Greenwell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 23, 2008

In an effort to help nonprofit groups cope with the economic downturn, the United Way of the National Capital Area will cut the fees it charges agencies by more than 50 percent.

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United Way, which partners with about 900 nonprofit groups throughout the region, plans to cut its annual membership fees in February, a move it says will save groups about $1.5 million collectively. The organization does not publicly discuss its fees, so spokeswoman Lya Britt could not say how much money each agency would save.

Britt said the United Way board of directors wanted to help nonprofit organizations cope with increasing demand and slowing donations caused by the recession. Acting chief executive Angela R. Woods helped United Way streamline its fundraising processes to save money, then wanted to pass the savings on to groups, Britt said. The groups pay the fees to support United Way fundraising efforts.

"As one of the largest nonprofits in the region, we felt we needed to take a bold step to help our members, and the board agreed," Britt said.

The move comes about halfway through United Way's annual campaign, the cornerstone of its fundraising efforts. The group is still struggling to regain its fundraising strength after reports of financial mismanagement and embezzlement that led to a federal investigation, the criminal conviction of chief executive Oral Suer and the resignation of his successor, Norman O. Taylor.

In the wake of the scandals, many corporations withdrew from the United Way campaign, and fundraising dropped precipitously. In August, the group reported raising $35.8 million in its last campaign, a slight increase over the previous year's but far less than the $90 million it regularly raised in the early part of this decade.

Britt said that the recession is making fundraising difficult this year but that United Way leaders are "cautiously optimistic" about the latest campaign.


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