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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

United Way of Central Indiana Names Two Chairs of Fundraising Campaign

InsideIndianaBusiness.com Report

United Way of Central Indiana has announced that two Indianapolis business leaders will chair its multi-million fundraising campaign. Herff Jones, Inc. Chief Executive Officer Bob Potts and RJE Business Interiors CEO Denny Sponsel will lead the community in the fundraising effort. This is the first time since 1978 that the duties will be split between two people.

Source: Inside INdiana Business
Press Release

INDIANAPOLIS...Feb. 21, 2007 -- Chairing United Way of Central Indiana's (UWCI) multi-million annual fundraising campaign is a big job -- so big, that in 2007, two volunteers have been tapped to share it, announced John Neighbours, UWCI's board chair and a partner at Baker and Daniels. It's the first time since 1978 that the role has been split between two people.

CEOs Bob Potts, Herff Jones Inc., and Denny Sponsel, RJE Business Interiors, will lead the community in raising funds to address today's needs while reducing tomorrow's in six Central Indiana counties: Boone, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Marion and Morgan.

Both have volunteered on previous United Way campaign cabinets, most recently helping Steve Walker, president and CEO, Walker Information, generate $37.1 million for programs that help the whole community.

"I can think of no other volunteer role in the region with the potential to have such a positive impact on the quality of life for so many people," said Neighbours. "That these two respected, well-known and successful leaders have made such a huge commitment to open doors and attract attention to United Way's mission -- with the goal of broadening and deepening support for it -- is itself a wonderful gift to this community."

Neighbours and Ellen K. Annala, UWCI president and CEO, recruited Potts the day after he'd decided to retire from a 35-year career at Herff Jones, a company that focuses on rewarding academic and athletic excellence and honoring the milestones in life.

"The timing on this leadership opportunity is terrific," said Potts. "When I step down from the company in March, rather than travel and play golf, I'll be encouraging other companies to do what we've been able to do with our United Way initiatives."

Under Potts' leadership, the United Way campaign at Herff Jones has grown from $50,000 to over $250,000, and Potts believes the company's experience -- both with volunteerism and giving -- has not only heightened morale but also awareness of community needs among employees.

He tells the story of a group of Herff Jones employees who participated in United Way's Day of Caring at Horizon House, a United Way partner, and then were motivated to volunteer there regularly. Ultimately, the company hired a number of the job-seekers from the homeless day center for seasonal work at Herff Jones.

Though the public United Way campaign doesn't begin until the fall, Potts and Sponsel are already busy recruiting other volunteers to help them with fundraising.

"We're focusing on choosing people who are raving fans of United Way, and people who believe this community is capable of raising substantially more money than has ever been raised before to improve the quality of life of those most in need in our community," Sponsel said. RJE Business Interiors distributes comprehensive office furnishings and workplace systems in the region.

Sponsel said he was first encouraged to volunteer for United Way by Sallie Rowland, United Way's campaign chair in 1994. He'd been traveling as part of his job for more than 23 years, and when he bought RJE in Indianapolis in 2000, he was looking for ways to get more involved in the community. Rowland described United Way as a means to give back to the whole community and that resonated with Sponsel, who grew up as one of seven kids in a neighborhood near Brookside Park.

The pair complements one another. Sponsel says his background is "absolute sales and marketing - understanding the customer and motivating the team. I'm the rah, rah," he described.

Of his co-chair, Potts has praise for Sponsel's "high energy and high focus."
Potts brings administrative, process and implementation skills, and strengths when it comes to developing and analyzing a plan, Sponsel said. "He knows how to read a team and put the critical elements in place."

In their own words:

Denny Sponsel, on the time commitment necessary to co-chair United Way's annual campaign

"I figure there are 237 days until the end of December that I have available in my work life. If you take away 20 days -- 10 personal and 10 for other organizations, that leaves 217 days. If I do one major item a day for United Way, I think I can make a significant difference."
Bob Potts, on what the United Way campaign has meant to his employees

"Our company's United Way involvement has significantly heightened both employee morale and awareness of needs in our community. We do periodic surveys to measure satisfaction, but the difference is something you can actually feel -- people like working together."

United Way of Central Indiana

Serving six Central Indiana counties, United Way of Central Indiana (UWCI) helps sustain vital human services by working exclusively with proven human service agencies that direct life-changing opportunities. UWCI also helps reduce the needs of future generations by helping ensure that kids enter school ready to learn and leave school ready to earn.

Source: United Way of Central Indiana

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