Emory Report

November 2, 1998

 Volume 51, No. 10

United Way drive in full swing, plenty of time to give

It's still a couple of weeks to the halfway point of this year's United Way campaign, but Emory employees have already pledged half of this year's goal of $310,000, said Michelle Smith, director of corporate relations in Institutional Advancement and, along with IA colleague Bill Horne, a United Way campaign coordinator. Because the University exceeded last year's goal, President Bill Chace decided to raise the bar a bit this year. Although the annual appeal began on campus Oct. 1 and ends Dec. 31, coordinators hope the goal will be met by Thanksgiving.

This year at Emory marks the first "comprehensive" campaign in which not only the University and hospitals are participating but Emory Clinic and Wesley Woods are joining the effort as well. In fact, Health Affairs Executive Vice President Michael Johns is spearheading the citywide hospitals campaign for the metropolitan United Way.

Smith has assembled an array of raffle prizes including airline and concert tickets and a weekend getaway. The names of all full- and part-time University employees who've given to United Way will be entered into the raffle, and a full list of prizes will appear in Emory Report later this month.

At a giving rate of 12 percent, Emory's fund-raising lags behind that of other Atlanta-area colleges and universities. For example, when Johnnetta Cole took the helm at Spelman College 11 years ago, few employees gave to United Way. Her passion and commitment to the organization helped raise the college's giving to more than 85 percent in 1996, the year Cole chaired United Way's citywide campaign. "As a leader in the Atlanta community we simply must increase the level of giving here at Emory," Smith said. "Our challenge is to tell the stories that make that happen."

Brenda Hascall, program associate at the medical school, said some potential donors still remember the scandal involving United Way's national headquarters almost a decade ago. "The bad stuff stays out there [in people's minds] forever and a day," she said. "Most don't ever remember the good stuff." For Hascall, the "good stuff" includes the time the YWCA, a United Way-funded agency, provided scholarship support so that as a divorced, single mother she could afford to send her school-age daughter there for quality after-school and summertime care.

During her annual appeal Hascall tries to show coworkers how United Way touches the lives of ordinary people like her. Last year she brought in a speaker from the Center for the Visually Impaired, a doctor who'd undergone eye surgery and emerged from it blind. He told listeners how that United Way-funded agency helped him adjust to his new status by teaching him Braille and later by providing textbook readers when he returned to school.

Such stories leave some people cold because they dislike feeling pressured to give at work-or anywhere. "You cannot raise money unless you pitch and tell people why they should care," Smith said emphatically.

"The Atlanta United Way has always been one of the strongest in the country with the lowest administrative costs," she added. Just 10 cents of every dollar raised goes to the organization's overhead; the remainder goes to programs of United Way member organizations such as the Visiting Nurses Association or the Red Cross, which has been particularly taxed this year by so many natural disasters.

Often potential donors don't understand how United Way, really a clearinghouse for gifts to member organizations, works. "Sometimes, when people find out they can select where they want their money to go, they feel more comfortable with that," said Helen Horton, associate director of the Career Center and a Campus Life "ambassador."

Donors can specify any member organization for giving, but there's also "Targeted Care," a new communitywide initiative and an AIDS response fund that includes, but is not limited to, United Way-funded agencies. The United Way also includes agencies in the 13-county metro area, and donors can chose to allocate money this way as well.

Horton said she was a regular but admittedly dispassionate United Way donor before her visit to the local Goodwill agency showed how much good her contributions can do. She now tries very hard to convince others that their gifts can make a difference in the lives of others-maybe even family and friends. And she's meeting some success. After a presentation to her coworkers, Horton said, "One person told me she'd thrown the [solicitation] packet into the trash but pulled it out. After hearing my presentation she told me, 'I knew there must have been a reason.'"

--Stacey Jones

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