Denny Sponsel's T-shirt was soaked in perspiration Friday morning as he stood in the Near-Eastside park where he played as a boy.
The co-chairman of this year's fundraising campaign for the United Way of Central Indiana, he had been spreading mulch around the Brookside Park playground.
To hear him talk, the sweat might have come hitting up so many chief executives for contributions.
Sponsel, president of a local company that designs work spaces and deals in high-end business furnishings, announced Friday he aims to raise $39 million for the United Way this year. That's $2 million, or about 5 percent, more than last year's goal.
To make it happen, Sponsel said, he and co-chairman Bob Potts have visited 206 local corporate chief executives this year to make the United Way pitch.
That's twice the number of CEO visits the campaign had made by this time last year. By the time it's over, Sponsel intends to have hit up 250 business leaders.
Sponsel also said he's explicit when he's on these visits, giving people a specific dollar figure he has in mind.
"It's a face-to-face, belly-to-belly type of call," Sponsel said, "where we are saying that all of us have to do this."
United Way money supports charities in Marion and five neighboring counties. They include youth organizations such as Boys & Girls Clubs of America, programs for the elderly such as Meals on Wheels, and centers that serve populations including the homeless and abused women.
The organization boasts that 95 percent of all donations go to programs, with the other 5 percent going to administrative overhead. Those operational costs would be higher -- 11 percent to 13 percent -- were it not for an endowment that helps offset some administrative costs.
The early returns this year seem promising.
Already, 30 local corporate campaigns have completed their work, and 27 have exceeded their goals, Sponsel said. The other three, he notes, were close. That has brought in $5.4 million, Sponsel noted, well ahead of the $3.7 million that was already in the kitty by this time a year ago.
Hitting such benchmarks -- and surpassing them -- is all part of Sponsel's approach.
He said workplace fundraisers are key to the United Way's annual fundraising drive. So he started in December, even while last year's campaign was being wrapped up.
Sponsel also doesn't see his approach as being high pressure.
"We're bolder and bolder for the right reasons," Sponsel said. "Because this is important work."
Call Star reporter Robert King at (317) 444-6089.
How to donate
By mail: United Way of Central Indiana,
3901 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208.
By phone: (317) 923-1466
Source: The Indianapolis Star > Local - Metro & State, August 25, 2007