URBANA – In a year when Americans were asked to help victims of natural disasters around the world and at home, University of Illinois employees raised a record amount of money for charity.
They gave $1.17 million through the fall semester Campus Charitable Fund Drive – just over its $1.1 million goal – to break the previous record of $1.15 million set in 2001.
"I'm really excited because we had lots of competing things like Katrina and the tsunami at the beginning of the year," said math Professor Robert Fossum, who was chairman of the fund drive advisory committee. "People really came through for local charities."
"I think the series of tragedies across the globe really raised people's awareness of how important it is to help those near and far," added Rose Ann Miron, associate vice chancellor for public engagement and institutional relations, whose office managed the fund drive. "I think there is a general awareness we're part of a bigger community. People are starting to feel more and more that they need participate in whatever ways they can."
The $1.1 million goal was the highest set by the UI. Its goal for the last three years has been $1 million, and it surpassed that each year.
The number of people donating also increased by 20 percent over the last campaign, from 2,768 in 2004 to 3,305 in 2005. Fund drive officials set a goal of getting 4,000 people to donate. Miron said she was pleased with the increase, and she and Fossum gave credit to the fund drive volunteers.
"The core work was done by the soldiers out there talking to the rest of the faculty and staff and asking them to give," Fossum said. "I'd like to think we did a good job in inspiring the leaders on campus to make an effort to get out the message that the local community needs its support.
"I think it reflects a renewed confidence in the university because of the new leadership," he continued. "(UI President B. Joseph White and Chancellor Richard Herman) are very interested in promoting the university in the community, and I think that catches on with the rest of the campus."
The average donation fell slightly, from $366 per person in 2004 to $355 in 2005. Miron said the decrease could be attributed to an increasing number of people donating, because first-time donors might not give as much as longtime contributors. But she was pleased the average stayed near a $1-per-day contribution.
The campaign also had a new giving level this year, called the "Founder" level, for those contributing $1,867 or more – recognizing the year the UI was established. Eighty-eight people donated at that level.
"We think that's phenomenal," Miron said.
The fund drive, which ran from early September to early December, raises money for 11 umbrella organizations such as America's Charities, Community Shares of Illinois or the United Way of Champaign County, and the agencies that benefit from them.