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Thursday December 18, 2014
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Sandy Rupp's Challenge

 

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Next door, a feathery red boa hangs outside staffer Angelina Semak's office. Rupp explains that it signifies good news: yesterday, local Google boss Grady Burnett called Semak to tell her that the search giant will be sending volunteers to UWWC's Day of Caring in April.

Down the hall, another boa celebrates a call from Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting. The Avis Farms office was too busy at year's end to take part in the traditional fall fund drive-but will make up for it now with an "off-season" campaign. "This could be one of those gap fillers," says Rupp, referring to the hundreds of thousands of dollars United Way still hopes to raise. "It's a great company, stepping forward."

Rupp responds to criticism of her leadership with composure, the toughness camouflaged by a frequently flashing smile. She points out that while "youth at risk" are no longer funded as such, older children benefit from many other UWWC programs, such as housing and health care. "Is it a perfect system?" she asks rhetorically. "No. And we always said that--it's a work in process." But she points out that whereas before almost half of all donations were designated to specific agencies, two-thirds now are unrestricted gifts to the Community Investment Fund-a change she sees as a vote of confidence in the new allocation process.

With Pfizer gone and the auto industry weakening by the day, every new donor is a triumph. Last year, Rupp says, the agency launched campaigns in thirty-one workplaces. But she believes the greatest potential for growth lies in a familiar quarter.

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