Katrina donations eclipse $250,000

Yale has raised over $250,000 so far for those affected by Hurricane Katrina and the pace of donations increased this week, due in part to Yale President Richard Levin’s decision to increase the University’s commitment to matching charitable donations of students, faculty and staff.

Donations, which began to lag in the end of September, increased after the administration announced this week that it would match charitable donations up to $1,000 — not just $100, as it had been doing previously. The administration also clarified its policy on matching donations and will now provide matching funds for as much as a group raises. The changes will be applied to all donations, including those made under the previous policy.

Almost 100 people made donations through Yale’s matching program between Monday and Wednesday of this week, compared to about 40 people per week in September, said Robert Schwartz, the University’s chief human resources officer. As of this Wednesday, 1,029 individuals had made contributions through Yale.

“It would appear … that the increasing of the level of matching and just reminding people about things has reinvigorated the contribution levels,” said Schwartz, a key coordinator in Yale’s fund-raising efforts.

Although the University is administering the matching program, the money is not coming from Yale’s funds, but from special fund-raising efforts conducted by Levin and other University officials, said Katherine Reynolds, Yale’s assistant director of communications and human resources.

“It’s not Yale money at all,” she said. “This is money that President Levin, some of the officers, and all of the other contacts that he may have had, have raised to complement the effort going on around campus.”

Levin said the success of his fund raising enabled Yale officials to match donations up to $1,000.

“Between the officers and the deans and the trustees, we had raised more than had been given so far, so we thought we might as well raise the ceiling on individual contributions,” he said.

About 20 percent of individual donations to Yale’s matching program have been made by students, but Schwartz said that number is an understatement because many Yalies have given money to student groups instead of donating on their own.

Student fund raising and rebuilding efforts — such as a door-to-door fund-raising effort last week coordinated by religious and community-service groups — are also still vigorous, said Molly Zeff ’07, co-coordinator of the Hurricane Emergency Relief Organization. Continued door-to-door fund raising and a potential intercollegiate Habitat for Humanity trip to the Gulf are planned for the future, she said.

“When I was going around [door-to-door], people were pretty receptive to giving at least a dollar,” Zeff said. “A fair amount of people said they’d already given and already given a lot.”

Some other Ivy League universities have similar fund-raising programs, though they differ in the amount they are willing to match and in the groups to which they are distributing funds. Harvard is matching donations up to $100, Harvard spokeswoman Mary Power said. Over 2,000 students, faculty and staff have contributed to the fund, and the university has raised over $250,000 with its matching funds, she said. Harvard will release final donations numbers on Oct. 15, when it stops accepting matched donations.

But Columbia University does not have a similar program of matched donations. Instead, the university is collecting donations specifically to help those in the Columbia community who have been affected, said Suzanne Jung, associate director of Columbia’s Chaplain’s Office.

Yale will match donations until Dec. 9, the last day is the last that donations can be recorded in time for employees to report them on their tax forms, Schwartz said.

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