By Carissa Woytach, United Way of Greater Cleveland Staff Writer
United Way of Greater Cleveland officially kicked off its annual fundraising appeal on Wednesday, August 31, but some companies have been running their Stellar Campaign since March.
Stellar Campaigns consist of participating companies and organizations who commit to increase their corporate or employee gifts by five percent, as well as run their campaign early.
Co-Chairs Terry Szmagala, senior vice president of public & community affairs for Eaton; and James Dougherty, partner at Jones Day, have both been involved with United Way for the majority of their professional careers, but it is their first time as Stellar Campaign co-chairs.
Dougherty has been with Jones Day for 12 years and was first introduced to United Way’s campaign by John Macintosh — this year’s campaign co-chair and managing partner at KPMG.
“I spent some time with John in the fall and thought it would be a really great way to get involved and help out, particularly on the corporate side where I’ve got a lot of connectivity with a number of the companies that work with United Way regularly,” he said. “So it seemed like a pretty good fit.”
Dougherty is trying to promote Stellar Campaigns by connecting with company CEOs to relay the importance of early, sustained giving and United Way’s work.
“I think United Way has the ability to do what other organizations would have a really hard time doing, which is to have extremely broad-based participation across the community,” he said. “When you think about a lot of great charities out there, they really don’t have the network and system United Way has to get a significant amount of participation.”
Szmagala has been at Eaton for the past 10 years, and has been involved with United Way since long before he came to the company, but it is his first year taking an active role in the campaign. He has donated at a leadership level since he started his career, as well as volunteered with the organization and has been able to see firsthand what United Way does.
“In my new role at public and community affairs, I’ve been able to see firsthand what United Way does and I wanted to get more involved,” Szmagala said.
He said the importance of running the campaign early is to set the bar high and encourage companies to get better every year. Eaton has been the top Stellar Campaign company for the last two years and they plan to defend their title, he said.
“Two things would be really great,” he said. “To see our traditional campaigns continue to grow at a healthy pace is important. But for me, adding new campaigns that might be smaller would be great to see. The reason I say that is if we can get more companies involved in holding campaigns, they’re setting a culture where, down the road, the campaigns might get bigger. “It’s really important to get Cleveland companies committed to the Stellar Campaign program, so we can add to the ranks of the KeyBanks and Eatons in the city that are already very generous.”