October 12, 2009

Reaching out in time of need

The university’s 2009 United Way of Central Maryland campaign, which kicks off on Wednesday, will stress efficiency and maximize the dollars donated like never before, according to campaign leadership.

Michael Klag, dean of the School of Public Health and chair of the university’s United Way campaign, said that in tough economic times, giving to charitable social service organizations is more important than ever.

“In times like these, it’s especially tough for people on the bottom of the economic ladder,” Klag said. “The need is much greater, and thus our contributions, whatever the amount, can have even more impact. United Way allows these community agencies—which often struggle to do fund raising on their own—to fulfill their missions that are essential to the health of the community.”

Klag said that you don’t have to go too far from any Johns Hopkins campus to see areas of great need.

“And the small community-based organizations that United Way supports help fill the niches that can’t be filled any other way, whether it’s providing meals for those going hungry or services for abused women,” he said. “United Way has developed an efficient way to take a few dollars and make our community better.”

This year, every donated dollar will stretch even further.

Due to economic conditions, the United Way of Central Maryland has cut operating costs and significantly reduced its designation fee to 5 percent—with a cap of $500 no matter the size of the gift. It previously charged 17.5 percent for paper-pledged designations and 12.5 percent for electronic designations to specific health and human services organizations. Designations made to United Way or its impact partners do not have fees associated.

“This fee reduction makes designations incredibly efficient and even more powerful,” Klag said. “A large organization requires a significant amount of money to run, and this policy change puts United Way at the forefront of charitable organizations in terms of getting the most out of donations.”

Stephanie Reel, chief information officer and vice provost for information technology, will serve as chair of the Johns Hopkins Medicine campaign, which will run from Oct. 26 to Nov. 6.

Reel said that she continues to be impressed by the generosity of the Johns Hopkins community, which always seems to rise to the occasion in times of need.

“We are fortunate to work for a great institution like Johns Hopkins. We have the ability to help and the opportunity to make a difference, to give hope to people who are less fortunate,” Reel said. “We need to remember that we are all in this together.”

The combined university/Johns Hopkins Medicine financial goal for the 2009 campaign is $2,060,000.

In 2008, Johns Hopkins raised $2,113,344, a total for contributions from all university divisions except SAIS, whose donations are reported to the National Capital Area campaign in Washington, D.C., and the Applied Physics Laboratory, which no longer reports its financial goals and results.

Like last year, the Johns Hopkins campaign will be nearly paperless and shorter in duration than in past years. Absent for nearly all JHU affiliates will be the traditional pledge packets that have been either mailed home or sent to employees’ campus mailboxes.

Employees may contribute through a secure and confidential electronic system, which can be found at web.jhu.edu/uw. To access the system, employees will use their JHED ID and password.

Those who would rather pledge by paper can still download a form from the United Way site or contact their department coordinator.

The university’s campaign, which will continue until Dec. 18, will be rolled out by its “ambassadors”—selected Johns Hopkins employees who will educate others about United Way and can answer questions. The campaign will also feature several e-mails reminding people to pledge online and of campaign-related events.

Employees will be able to designate all or part of their donation to the Johns Hopkins Neighborhood Fund, now in its third year.

The fund supports agencies that serve communities in close proximity to Johns Hopkins campuses and have a strong relationship with Johns Hopkins and its employees. It was created to assist community-oriented organizations and agencies that may not currently receive United Way funding.

Last year, the Neighborhood Fund raised more than $200,000. To be considered, nonprofit organizations must be associated with Johns Hopkins through employee and/or institutional involvement and deliver services to the communities near Johns Hopkins campuses. A committee representing a cross section of Johns Hopkins employees oversees the allocation of the fund.

The grants address specific requests from the groups for efforts such as student mentoring, community beautification projects, homeless shelter assistance and nutritious meals to individuals in need.

The campaign, whose theme is “Whatever You Can Give, Gives Hope,” will focus on funding nonprofit organizations in Central Maryland that provide assistance in the “Live United” areas of education, income and health services.

Donors may designate all or part of their contributions to United Way, to the Johns Hopkins Neighborhood Fund or to any other charitable health and human service tax-exempt organization of their choosing in the United States.

The “Live United” initiative also asks people to participate in United Way more holistically, not just to give but also to advocate on behalf of its member organizations and to volunteer their time at area nonprofits.

To make it easier to volunteer, United Way of Central Maryland has created an online center, shareyourself.org, to find or post volunteer opportunities from across the region.

Among the events highlighting this year’s university campaign will be a United Way Celebration, which will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 30 on Homewood’s Levering Plaza. It will feature food, fun, games and representatives of United Way agencies. For admission, participants need to bring a completed pledge form, receipt from an online pledge or a $5 donation.

Other important activities are a Chili Cook-Off/Bake-Off, scheduled for Friday, Nov. 13, and a university Day of Caring, whose date has not yet been set.

The Johns Hopkins Medicine campaign will feature two hot dog lunches, from noon to 1:30 on Oct. 29 and Nov. 6 in the Turner Plaza. Admission to the event is a completed campaign pledge form or a coupon signed by the employee’s United Way coordinator.

The campaigns will feature department- and office-level events that seek to educate Johns Hopkins employees on the work of the Neighborhood Fund as well as United Way of Central Maryland, which supports human service agencies in Baltimore City and its five surrounding counties.

For more information on the Johns Hopkins campaigns, go to www.jhu.edu/unitedway or contact Jeff Pratt in Faculty, Staff and Retiree Programs at unitedway@jhu.edu or 410-516-6060.