Rowan United Way finances 'speak for themselves'
By Kathy Chaffin
firstname.lastname@example.orgIf the recent controversy surrounding the extravagant salary and benefits of the former Mecklenburg County United Way director has any Rowan residents wondering about the local office, the agency’s treasurer says “the numbers speak for themselves.”
The Rowan County United Way’s 990 Internal Revenue Services tax form indicates that only 7.9 percent of the agency’s annual budget goes to administrative costs, which includes salaries and benefits, said Guy Hoskins, treasurer for the all-volunteer board.
“I don’t know of a nonprofit that has lower administrative costs associated with it,” he said.
What that means, Hoskins continued, is that at least 92 percent of all money donated to the annual fundraising campaigns goes directly to the 16 agencies served by Rowan County United Way. The 990 states that combined, the agencies serve approximately 80,301 people in one way or another.
Hoskins, chief financial officer for F&M Bank, said the agency is able to give so much back to the community because it is volunteer-driven. Volunteer board members meet regularly to review expenditures, he said, and provide wisdom and perspective to the operation of the Rowan County United Way.
And because the board is made up of community leaders, Hoskins said, they’re going to make sure that county residents get the most out of their donations.
In addition, he said, the Rowan United Way agency undergoes an annual independent audit. After completing this year’s audit, he said CPAs from Sherrill & Smith commented “that we have a very conscientious staff, and we’ve got good internal controls.”
The issue arose after a recent Mecklenburg United Way scandal. Members of that county’s board of directors came under public scrutiny recently after it was revealed that they paid Director Gloria Pace King $1.2 million in salary and benefits last year.
Just days before Mecklenburg’s Sept. 5 United Way campaign kickoff, the board relieved King of her duties and apologized publicly to donors upset about the lavish salary.
Rowan County United Way Executive Director Bob Lippard said there have been a few questions stemming from the Mecklenburg situation.
“Most folks that I have talked with have realized that we’re totally different,” he said.
Lippard’s annual salary is $71,137, and that’s after 21 years in the position. Before that, he worked three years in the associate director position now held by Jackie Harris.
And for three years before that, Lippard was a consultant in blood services for the American Red Cross.
Harris, who heads up the agency’s annual fundraising campaign, makes $51,883 a year. She has been in the position for 16 years.
Before that, Harris worked as district director for the American Cancer Society and was responsible for seven counties, including Rowan.
Hoskins said Lippard and Harris work tirelessly for the Rowan County United Way and that if they were paid on a per-hour basis, their salaries would likely be quite low. The quality and loyalty that they bring to the job is “a testament to them,” he said.
The Rowan United Way has only one other full-time position. Melissa Robbins is finance director for the agency.
A part-time employee and a Title V worker also work at the office. In the past, the agency has had four full-time and one part-time positions.
When it comes to benefits, the agency contributes 7 percent of full-time employees’ annual salaries to a retirement fund along with any additional percentage the employees choose to contribute.
Health insurance, vacation and sick leave benefits are comparable to those offered by other employers.
An indirect benefit, Lippard said, is being able to work with the volunteers in the Rowan community.
“I know that’s not remuneration as far as cash or anything, but I do believe that is something that is very important,” he said, “and something I appreciate, and I know our staff does.”
Harris said she feels bad for the agencies served by the Mecklenburg County United Way which may suffer the consequences of the controversy.
So far, she said people in Rowan County have been very positive about this year’s fundraising campaign.
“That’s the beauty of a small county,” she said. “We look after each other.”