University's fund drive records reviewed

University's fund drive records reviewed

URBANA – The University of Illinois is reviewing its charitable fund drive records after discovering some UI employee donations may not have been funneled to the specific charities donors had selected.

The UI has given the correct amount of money to the 11 nonprofit agencies that participated in the 2005 Fund Drive. But at least one of those agencies, Community Shares of Illinois, was unable to distribute the money correctly to the nonprofits under its umbrella because it received an incomplete list of donor designations from the UI.

During the 2005 Campus Charitable Fund Drive, an annual campaign in which UI employees can donate money to 11 nonprofit agencies, the UI started continuous giving. This meant employees who had donated in previous years via payroll deduction and who planned to give the same amount to the same charities did not need to fill out new paperwork.

Last fall, UI employee Chris Beuoy decided to donate, through payroll deduction, the same amount as in previous years to Community Shares of Illinois. She also decided to designate the same amounts to the same charities under the Community Shares umbrella.

But last week she discovered she wasn't on the membership list of one of those organizations, even though it was one of the agencies she had designated in previous years.

"People should know what's happening. There may very well be donors out there who wanted money to go to a specific spot and that could be a concern for people," she said.

Beuoy's money was directed to Community Shares of Illinois, but the agency did not find out until recently that Beuoy's money was to be distributed among several other agencies that it represents.

What happened is the UI switched to a new computer system to handle the fund drive, and the system did not have a mechanism in place that would allow it to tell the agencies just how the continuous donor wanted to designate his or her money, said UI spokeswoman Robin Kaler. Several of the 11 agencies that participate in the fund drive are umbrella organizations representing additional charities. Community Shares of Illinois, for example, represents Habitat for Humanity and WEFT 90.1 FM, among many other nonprofits.

The UI sent a letter to the 11 organizations last October and alerted them about the computer glitch. The UI provided the organizations with lists of continuous donors so the organizations could check their records and correctly distribute their money.

But due to an error that essentially occurred while the UI was converting data from one spreadsheet to another, Community Shares of Illinois, one of the umbrella organizations to which UI employees can donate, did not receive a complete list of employee designations, Kaler confirmed.

"Staff has begun to check and recheck every donation to make sure this was just an isolated incident," Kaler said.

Community Shares did receive the correct amount of money from the UI, Kaler said. But Community Shares is now reviewing its records to make sure it distributed the right amount of money to the right charities.

"We are double-checking our records," said Mike Doyle, executive director of the organization. "It seems to be a small number of people," said Doyle, who estimates about 15 to 30 pledges out of about 400 need to be checked.

Kaler said employees who are concerned about their donations do not have to do anything.

"We're checking our records and if we identify any problems, we'll fix them," Kaler said.

During the 2005 fund drive, nearly 2,500 UI employees donated $1.5 million. Of that amount, continuing dollars from payroll deduction amounted to about $717,000.

Kaler said the system this fall will have a new portion in place that will allow donors to specifically designate where they want the money to go within the 11 organizations.

"We're hoping it will be smoother for everyone," Kaler said.

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