The recession cut a deep swath in contributions to more than 300 of the nation’s largest United Ways last year, according to figures released by United Way Worldwide.
In what officials said was a “stark” trend, the number of local United Ways reporting a decline in contributions shot up to 57 pecent last year, from 34 percent in 2007.
Similarly, the number of United Ways reporting that donations increased in 2008 fell sharply, from 55 down to 32 percent.
The total raised by the country’s biggest United Ways — each of which raises at least $1-million annually — declined by 5 percent, to $4.02-billion, after having risen by 2 percent in 2007.
The local United Way with the largest decline was in Erie, Pa. (-67.5 percent), followed by Hamilton, Ohio (-46.2 percent), Hattiesburg, Miss. (-44.1 percent), Mesa, Ariz. (-38.6 percent), and Fort Smith, Ark. (-37.5 percent).
The Seattle United Way, as it has in previous years, raised the most of any local affiliate in 2008 and was the only United Way to break the $100-million barrier. But that was still a 14.5-percent decline from what it raised in 2007.
Not every United Way did poorly last year: Forty local groups reported double-digit increases. Leading the pack was the United Way in Salem, Ore. (42.2 percent), followed by Greensburg, Pa. (40.8 percent), Casper, Wyo. (28.7 percent), Green Bay, Wisc. (27.2 percent), and Baytown, Tex. (27.1 percent).