Yale faculty and staff are doing more than ever to support the area of greater New Haven.
The fundraising partnership between the University and United Way — a nonprofit organization focused on supporting New Haven and surrounding towns — is on pace to have its most successful year yet. As of Jan. 31, the campaign’s official target date, 2,000 faculty and staff members — 500 of whom had never donated before — have given more than $1.3 million in donations and pledges. The amount raised is roughly $140,000 more than what had been raised at the same point last year, though donations will continue to be accepted through February and March. Jennifer Heath, vice president of United Way who will take over as president and CEO in July, said funds raised are directed toward three key areas: education, income stability and health.
Heath said a pledge the University made last year to match up to $100,000 in new or increased donations helped to incentivize members of the Yale community to contribute. University President Peter Salovey said that while fundraising for Yale is his first priority, doing the same for greater New Haven is “extremely important” to him and has wider benefits.
“Our faculty, staff and students who contributed to the campaign recognize that these challenging economic times especially require us to step up and provide assistance to those who are less fortunate,” he said. “Yale itself is made stronger if we live in a community where residents can get a great education, receive excellent health care, live sustainably and contribute as citizens and students and employees. The fate of New Haven and the fate of Yale can never be separated.”
Jacob Peterson, a development officer for United Way, said this year marks a continuation of several years of increased success for the Yale-United Way partnership. Money raised through Yale for the campaign has steadily increased over the past three years and now stands at roughly $200,000 more than it did at the same point in January 2013. Peterson added that the individual voices supporting this year’s campaign — including those of Mayor Toni Harp and Salovey — have served as an invaluable resource.
Heath added that increased awareness of United Way and its purpose contributed to its success.
“We’ve had a great relationship with Yale over the years, and I think there has been a lot of momentum building up over time as more and more people understand what United Way is and what it does in the community,” she said.
Peter Schaller, communications manager for United Way, said the Yale campaign is critical to United Way’s overall mission. About one out of every four dollars donated to the campaign comes from the Yale community, he explained.
United Way’s model has changed over time, according to Schaller. Funds used to be methodically distributed to organizations each year. Now, he said, the process is more focused on specific initiatives.
“We’re moving away from organizations that do a whole bunch of programs,” he said. “It’s more goal-focused: looking at problems wholly, not giving organizations a certain amount of money and letting them do what they want with it.”
In addition to distributing grants, Heath said United Way also coordinates the efforts of various other nonprofits in the area, citing its 22-month-old role as coordinator of a wider community effort to combat homelessness in the region.
“In addition to grant dollars, we have been asked by homeless service providers to serve as a coordinator as we create new ways to ensure people move out of homelessness and into permanent housing,” she said.
Schaller said in seeking to “solve homelessness,” United Way is bringing related nonprofits together to make sure individuals at highest risk are cared for and that money is available at times of crisis, citing the city’s recent cold spell as an example.
Yale donors interviewed almost universally said they contributed to United Way because of their attachment to New Haven and its residents.
Graduate School Dean Lynn Cooley said she donated to United Way because she “love[s] New Haven and want[s] to see it thrive.”
Scott Strobel, vice president for West Campus planning and program development, said he feels it is his responsibility to support New Haven.
“I donated to the campaign to help support the community where my family lives,” he said. “It’s morally important to me that I give to those who are in need and the United Way provides a mechanism to do this in an equitable way.”
United Way of Greater New Haven was founded in 1919 as the Community Chest of Greater New Haven.