Yale works to aid United Way

It’s workplace fundraising season again for Yale.

The University is working with the charitable nonprofit United Way of Greater New Haven to raise $1 million by the new year for groups helping disadvantaged local residents. The campaign will include events such as a benefit concert in Battell Chapel for homelessness support efforts. But some organizers said the Yale community should do more for the effort, which has prompted some campaign heads to consider reorganizing the leadership for next year.

Yale has had a long-standing relationship with United Way, said Ernst Huff, campaign co-chair and University associate vice president for student financial and administrative services. The campaign raises funds from faculty, staff, students and retirees in order to support local nonprofits, including homeless shelter Columbus House.

Of course, $1 million may seem like be pocket change to an institution with $22.9 billion in the bank. Indeed, residents over the years have complained in community meetings and in interviews that Yale is not doing enough for the community.

In response, several Yale officials stressed this weekend that the campaign is a charitable deed and that the University also contributes to the community in other ways, such as voluntary payments in lieu of taxes. (Yale University does not have to pay taxes for almost all of the non-commercial property it inhabits.)

Still, some campaign workers added, the campaign should expand in future years. Only 12 percent of the Yale faculty and staff donate to the campaign, said Yale College Associate for Assessment Dean Judith Hackman, who has been involved with the cause for many years.

“We have a lot of room for growth as far as involving more people,” she said. “[But] we make $1 million for the community, which is important.”

But if the campaign’s “champions” program — in which faculty and staff are tasked with motivating colleagues to donate — is any measure, leaders may have a hard time gathering supporters. Employee participation has declined over the years, from about 150 champions and campaign leaders in 2005 to about 120 now.

Hackman disregarded the drop in number because the “real issue is … how many colleagues they are able to successfully motivate to give,” she wrote in an e-mail message Sunday.

Still, some organizers said they may reorganize leadership in future years in order to galvanize participation and introduce long-term strategy. In the past, chairs changed from year to year. Having one co-chair stay another year, Huff said, would promote “continuity” and allow future campaigns to implement the ideas that surfaced in previous years.

One idea that co-chairs Yale School of Medicine Deputy Dean for Finance and Administration Cynthia Walker, who could not be reached for comment over the weekend, and Huff will implement is a benefit concert. This year, the concert will take place in Battell Chapel next Sunday and will collect donations for the “Shelter Now” fund, which United Way helped to establish in order to help finance the city’s overflow shelter this year.

United Way officials met with the campaign co-chairs early last week and “communicated the need to be extra sensitive to the needs of homeless folks,” Huff said.

Representatives from United Way of Greater New Haven contacted on Friday deferred comment to United Way’s Vice President of Finance, Administration & Information Systems, Stefanie Boles. Boles could not be reached for comment over the weekend.

The campaign moderately struggled to reach the $500,000 goal in the first half of the decade. But for the last three years, it has attained the upped $1 million goal.

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