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Community Fund Drive 2008

Help is most needed in difficult economic times

by Amy Danielson

Community Fund Drive image
The Community Fund Drive runs from October 1 to October 31.

October 14, 2008

In light of the nation's current financial difficulties, many people are rethinking their own budgets. Charities such as food banks and shelters are feeling the effects of this crisis too; government funding and corporate donations are decreasing, making it harder for charities to provide vital services. This is a time when people need help more than ever, and individual contributions can make a huge difference.

The University's Community Fund Drive raises over a million dollars every year for Minnesota charities--building connections between the U and the community. The annual fund-raising effort, which runs Oct. 1 through Oct. 31, enables members of the campus community to pull together to raise awareness and money for hundreds of local charities.

Come Together

The Community Fund Drive offers University employees a chance to collectively give back. Mark Abner, director of principal gifts for the University of Minnesota Foundation, is passionate about the Minnesota charity, Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless, which makes grants to hundreds of food shelves and shelters across the state. As a donor, volunteer, and board member for Open Your Heart, he believes giving through the fund drive is a great way for University employees to come together and help others.

Mark Abner, director of principal gifts for the University of Minnesota Foundation
Mark Abner, director of principal gifts for the University of Minnesota Foundation

"I like the opportunity to participate in the generous spirit of this University along with thousands of colleagues to fund programs that are important to all of Minnesota," Abner says. "I feel very certain that giving to Open Your Heart is an effective and viable way to address real, tangible, and urgent needs of struggling Minnesotans."

This year's Community Fund Drive co-chairs, Rusty Barcel?, vice president and vice provost for equity and diversity, and Tim Mulcahy, vice president for research, are calling upon University employees to reach out to the broader community.

"We're working to energize the University community to give on behalf of the increasing number of people and organizations who need our help," Mulcahy says. Barcel? emphasizes the power of giving together. "I'm proud when, as a University, we demonstrate that we care about the greater good."

The University's first lady, Susan Hagstrom, sees the fund drive as an important part of the U's outreach mission. "The University is one of the largest employers in the state and the drive is one of the most visible opportunities the U has to give back. Also, the ability to show a higher percentage of employee participation is a matter of great pride for the U."

"You know, we're all in this together, says Barcel?. She quotes Martin Luther King for inspiration saying 'We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.' That?s never been truer, and we need to step up."

Helping Our Struggling Neighbors

Demands across the metro area are increasing for many charities, but donations are markedly decreasing. Maggie Schneider, a donor recruitment representative for Memorial Blood Centers espouses the importance of financial contributions in addition to other forms of giving, like volunteering time and donating blood. "We could have a 100 percent blood-donor pool, but if we don't have finances to make sure the blood is safe, we cannot fulfill our mission. We really need both."

In 2004, Schneider was driving on an icy-road in Michigan when she lost control of her car and rolled eight times. The accident shattered many of her bones--both hands, one ankle, her jaw, left leg, and collar bone--a burst femoral caused her to lose a lot of blood. Now she gives back by telling others about the importance of giving--that anything you can do helps.

Barcel? and Mulcahy stress the urgency of giving during tough economic times. "So many people need the services we support with our contributions. Even people who never dreamed they'd need help are turning to charitable organizations," Barcel? says.

"I know lots of people, including University employees, are having trouble making ends meet, but that's all the more reason to give what you can. Every dollar matters," she adds. "If everyone at the University gave just a few dollars, think of the cumulative impact!"

Abner agrees. "I am more motivated than ever to give and volunteer, because I know the need is so great. I feel very fortunate to work for the U and I know I'm in a better position than others who have lost their jobs in the state."

Something to Feel Good About

Contribute online: It's safe, accurate, and fast. Simply complete the online pledge form. When you turn in your pledge, you will be eligible for weekly and grand prize drawings, and a special drawing if you pledge online.

The drive makes charitable giving easier through the convenience of one-time or ongoing paycheck deductions.

If the charities you would like to give to are not listed in the CFD directory, you can designate your gift as "Other." You can give to any charity with a U.S. tax-exempt status of 501(c)3. Community Shares of Minnesota will disburse the funds to the charities you designate.

The Community Fund Drive gives U employees an opportunity to give to charities they feel passionate about--and it's an annual reminder that people need help. "We all benefit when we support the systems that support people--the environment, health and hospice care, affordable housing, and educational access. All of these, and much more, make our lives better and our communities stronger," says Mulcahy.

The University is working with organizations that support social services, education, arts, and health to make it easy for faculty and staff to give to the community. U employees decide where the donation goes by selecting from a variety of organizations.

This year, the goal is to raise $1.25 million to help address critical community needs. For more information about the Community Fund Drive and to contribute, see Community Fund Drive.

Amy Danielson is a public relations and marketing specialist in the Office of the Vice President for Research.