For the first time ever, students and staff representing Yale in an annual campaign to raise money for New Haven’s United Way organization will have financial help from the University. This year, the group hopes to raise $1 million for the United Way, more than doubling previous donation levels.

Yale conducts a fund-raising drive every year to raise money for the Greater New Haven branch of the national organization. This year, most of the funds will go to the city’s “Success by 6” initiative, a community-based national program whose aim is to ensure that New Haven students have the adequate preparation to enroll in school by age six. The program’s objectives range from improving pre-school programs to helping parents quit smoking and encouraging teen parents to finish high school.

Yale President Richard Levin announced recently that the University will match up to $100,000 in donations that the group raises above and beyond last year’s $566,000 total. An anonymous donor has agreed to match donations should volunteers raise more than $666,000.

Organizers said they hope to promote the cause through numerous events and programs. The official graduate school fund-raising kick-off will occur Wednesday with a small gathering at the Graduate-Professional Student Center at Yale and the official undergraduate kick-off will be a Cross Campus festival with bands and refreshments on Saturday.

The drive will officially end Nov. 19 with an appreciation banquet in Commons and a show featuring a hypnotist/magician in Woolsey Hall.

Donation levels have totaled between $300,000 and $500,000 in the past few years and have not exceeded these levels throughout the life of Yale’s program, said Judith Hackman, associate dean of Yale College and director of the Graduate School’s Teaching Fellows Program.

But Hackman is optimistic about reaching this year’s pledge goal. She said Yale’s payroll deduction program, the inception of a student fund-raising contingent, and the University’s commitment to match donations are all factors that will help the group reach its high goal.

“Matching makes reaching the goal possible,” she said. “We only need to raise $250,000 more than we did last year.”

John Pepper, the University’s vice president of finance and administration, who is co-chairing this year’s fundraising drive, said the deciding factor in attaining donations will be emphasizing the worthiness of the cause to potential donors. Pepper said Yale is matching donations for the first time this year because the University realized the utility of “Success by 6.”

Unlike last year, when the drive fell during a University-wide laborers’ strike, this year employees from locals 34 and 35 will participate in the fund-raising effort. Hackman said these employees will be encouraged to donate or otherwise participate via mailed solicitations.

Elliott Mogul ’05, who is heading the student campaign along with Richard Chuk ’05, said students will be approached in a much different manner than faculty members or other affiliates of the University. In the student campaign, donors will receive wristbands similar to the “LiveStrong” bracelets sold by Nike to support the Lance Armstrong Foundation for cancer survivors and their families. The bands will bear the project’s slogan “Always Matter.”

“The motto represents the idea that you should always matter in your community,” Mogul said. “Wherever you are, there’s a United Way or other social work organization, and there are so many ways to get involved.”

Student donors will be classified according to the amount of their donations. For easy reference, these students will be placed in one of four investment groups. Any student who donates at least $25 will fall into one of the top two investment tiers and will secure an invitation to a gala being held in early November, Mogul said. By contrast, for faculty members to fall into an equivalent tier, a $1,000 donation is required.

Mogul said the disparity in fundraising techniques and donor incentives represents the group’s efforts to appeal to young potential donors.

“We want to pull students into the cause, not push them,” he said.

Yale’s United Way volunteers have already begun their work. On Friday, they completed a campus-wide drive to collect children’s books to be distributed through the New Haven Reads organization.