Local United Way loses its largest donor: Intel

As the season of giving comes to a close, one of the area’s dominant charities — United Way of the Columbia-Willamette — is making do without its dominant donor — Intel and its thousands of local employees and retirees.

In September, Intel notified the local United Way it was terminating its fall workplace-giving campaign, says Keith Thomajan, the local United Way president and CEO.

That left a huge hole in local United Way funding. Intel, its staff and retirees contributed $6 million to the United Way of the Columbia-Willamette in 2014-15, 23 percent of its total fundraising, says Tripp Somerville, United Way spokesman.

It also left Intel employees without an easy way to donate money through payroll deductions to charities this year. Last year, about 1,300 Intel employees gave directly to United Way through the workplace campaign, plus a larger number who used United Way as a conduit to donate to other nonprofits of their choosing. Many used the program to tithe to their church.

United Way still hasn’t tabulated what it raised in the fall workplace giving campaign without Intel, Thomajan says, but early indications are it made out OK. The nonprofit laid off five employees who worked on the Intel campaign, he says, but it hasn’t reduced “by one penny” the amount it’s contributing to 70 area nonprofits that are part of its campaign against childhood poverty.

Other companies, including Kaiser, Umpqua Bank, Key Bank and Wells Fargo provided “significant new investments” to help offset the losses from Intel, Thomajan says. “Scores of them said ‘We’ve got your back; we’re going to find a way to do more this year.’ ”

Intel, which had a special commitment to United Way chapters where it has operations across the country, decided to go in a different direction with its charitable giving program, says Jill Eiland, public affairs director for the company’s Oregon operations.

Starting in early 2016, the company will roll out a new Intel Matching Gifts Program, which should result in more giving, Eiland says.

“We decided that we wanted to really provide greater flexibility for our employees and support the nonprofits of their choosing,” she says.

In the past, Intel employees around the country gave money through payroll deductions to their local United Way, with some going to the umbrella nonprofit group and some, where employees so chose, to other nonprofits.

Intel gave $1.5 million directly to the local United Way in 2014-15 and another $500,000 came from employees who selected United Way as their preferred nonprofit, Somerville says. Intel employees and retirees contributed another $4 million through United Way’s workplace giving program that was sent to their preferred nonprofits.

Nationally, Intel allocated $5 million to match donations to local United Way chapters, in proportion to how many local employees donated there. It wasn’t a dollar for dollar match, though.

Starting in 2016, Intel is taking its program in-house. Its foundation will match whatever donations employees choose, dollar for dollar, up to $5,000, Eiland says.

“We think the numbers are going to be higher,” she says. The new plan will allow giving year-round, Eiland says, and not just during one- or two-month United Way campaigns each fall.

Intel won’t be changing its other charity programs, including one that provides donations to educational institutions and one that provides money to organizations where its employees put in significant volunteer time.

Intel hasn’t yet worked out which nonprofits will be eligible for the new matching gifts program, such as religious congregations, Eiland says.

In 2013, the largest targeted nonprofit getting money through United Way of the Columbia-Willamette was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, which got nearly $1.1 million through workplace giving campaigns, according to the United Way’s 990 federal tax filing. Much of that came from Intel employees, Somerville says.

The company offers high salaries, has a high number of Mormon employees in Oregon, and church members are expected to give 10 percent of their income to the church.

The second-highest recipient of local United Way funds was the Oregon Food Bank, which got $156,144 in 2013.

“Our pledge form allows you to designate the nonprofit of your choice, or to designate the United Way,” Somerville says. Churches are, and have always been, the leading recipient of charitable donations in the United States, he says. United Way views that as a service to boost giving, and doesn’t get any money from sending donations to other nonprofits.

Thomajan is hoping the United Way can get some of those 1,300 Intel workers who donated to United Way through workplace giving in 2014-15 to make it their preferred charity in 2016. In those cases, the Intel Foundation will match up to $5,000. However, that will be more difficult, as workplace campaigns focus a lot of attention and peer pressure to give to United Way.

When Thomajan came to his post at United Way four years ago, Intel and its affiliates provided about one-third of its total funding. Since then, the umbrella agency has diversified its funding more, he says.

In 2014-15, Intel provided 23.3 percent of the record $25.7 million raised by United Way, but $12.2 million of that was sent to other nonprofits, including churches. Of the $13.5 million directed to the United Way, Intel supplied 14.8 percent. Most of that went to the Breaking the Cycle of Childhood Poverty campaign, which involves 70 nonprofits that work with children and families.

Under Thomajan’s leadership, United Way has shifted to what some call a “community impact model,” in which donations are targeted to achieve more specific and concrete results. The idea was to target childhood poverty, in hopes that it will help stabilize families in need in the Portland area.

United Way is well-positioned to serve as a convener so various groups will collaborate in addressing the issue, Thomajan says. The organization brings money, volunteers and a niche as an umbrella for other nonprofits.

“United Way is really the only organization in the metro region that sits at the intersection of donors and corporations, the social sector — governments and school systems — and philanthropy,” he says.

United Way is in the second year of its 10-year campaign to address childhood poverty.

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