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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University September 2, 2003 | Vol. 33 No. 1
United Way Chairs Set 2003 Goals

Ralph Fessler, chair for the university

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

When asked to look ahead to the upcoming 2003 United Way campaign, Martin Abeloff says he's focused on the little fish in the pond. In a sluggish economy, fund raising can be a great challenge, he says, particularly for the smaller community service organization that traditionally gets scant attention.

"If we look at all the budget cuts at the federal and state levels, it's hard to ignore that many social- and health-related programs are really threatened, particularly for the already underserved communities," says Abeloff, director of Oncology at the School of Medicine and chair of the United Way campaign for Johns Hopkins Medicine. "In Baltimore alone I've observed incredible services for the homeless and for getting people back on track. I've always been very struck and impressed with the support the small organizations receive, but without United Way's support, many would not be able to survive."

The theme for this year's campaign is "What Matters," and Abeloff says that keeping United Way organizations afloat and flourishing is what should matter to the entire university community.

"I really think the Johns Hopkins Institutions have a tremendous commitment to the underserved in Baltimore," he says. "Now is when they need our help the most. It's especially in these sort of tough times that I hope our faculty and staff will rise to the occasion."

The university will officially begin its 2003 drive for the United Way of Central Maryland this month with a kickoff event on Sept. 26 in Shriver Hall on the Homewood campus and several launches on other campuses.

Martin Abeloff, chair for JH Medicine

This year's three campaign chairs — for the university, Ralph Fessler, dean of the School of Professional Studies in Business and Education; for the Applied Physics Laboratory, Jay Dettmer, supervisor of the Electronic Services Group; and for Johns Hopkins Medicine, Martin Abeloff — have set a combined Hopkins goal of $2,382,100.

This figure represents a total for contributions from JHM and all university divisions except the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, whose donations are reported to the Washington capital area campaign. Last year's combined Hopkins gifts to the United Way of Central Maryland totaled $2,295,230.

Events scheduled for the six-week campaign include a universitywide Day of Caring, to be held Sept. 11; the first annual Hopkins Chili Cook-Off, scheduled for November; and several lottery drawings throughout the campaign for those employees returning pledges or contributions of $35 or more.

The Days of Caring are events in which staff and faculty can get directly involved with a local community service. Traditionally, employees have fed the homeless, refurbished shelters, held bake drives and volunteered their time with disadvantaged or disabled children, to name just a few. This year, volunteers will work at St. Jerome's Head Start, a childcare center.

APL's Jay Dettmer views the Days of Caring as a good way to expose people to the needs and functions of these services and organizations.

"Nothing quite brings it home like a hands-on experience, such as serving the homeless. It always amazes me how very thankful they are for what you give them," he says.

Dettmer says that although it's common to want to designate funds to a favorite charity or service, it's important to understand that each service is just one cog in a giant wheel. Dettmer encourages his APL colleagues to support the United Way's community safety net, to which any undesignated contributions will be applied. In building this safety net, a network of agencies that helps the entire community, the organization focuses on four initiatives: investing in children and youth, strengthening families, building the work force and responding to crisis.

"The more I got involved with United Way organizations, the more I realized that homelessness, for example, is not just about feeding them. It's not a one-dimensional problem," Dettmer says. "These people are on the street for a whole list of reasons: drug abuse, lack of job training, spousal abuse — the list goes on," he says. "Likewise, helping them requires more than a one-dimensional solution. It requires job training, affordable housing, and counseling services. While it is fine to designate to one agency, that won't solve the whole social issue."

SPSBE Dean Ralph Fessler has chosen to target his United Way campaign message to investing in children and youth. Fessler says that investing in a child's future means investing in the entire community.

"When we provide support for children in their formative years, we lay a foundation for their future successes," he says. "When you invest in a child, good things happen. Through the work of some wonderful agencies right here in Baltimore, we can influence what happens in their later lives — provide them more opportunities to go to college, offer a decreased reliance on social services and better overall adult health."

The money raised by the 2003 United Way campaign will support the more than 250 affiliated human service programs that seek to improve people's lives in Baltimore City and the five surrounding counties.

Fessler says that, like Abeloff, he understands that the pressures of the current economy present a challenge to this year's campaign and these organizations. How best to confront the challenge? Fessler says the key is to increase overall participation, making people realize that every little bit helps.

"We are all aware of the problems. Unemployment is high. Salary increases have not been as high as previous years. And Johns Hopkins has not been immune to this," he says. "However, all the community's needs are still there. In fact, the needs are even greater now. A person's habit of giving to the United Way each year is an important one to maintain. For the United Way agencies to sustain their level of service to the community, they need our help. This year we all have to give an extra push."

For more information on Hopkins' United Way campaign, go to

JHU Answers Your United Way Questions

How does United Way of Central Maryland address the needs of the community?

Volunteers work with other local service groups to assess the human needs of our community. After studying these needs, volunteers employ a priority system that helps them determine which programs and services to fund and at what level. They also monitor United Way-funded services on a year-round basis to ensure the community's money is spent wisely.

I can't afford to give much more than a dollar or two a week. Can I really make a difference?

Every gift is important, no matter what the size. When your gift is combined with over 200,000 other gifts in our community, it really adds up.

How much should I give?

While only you can decide the appropriate amount of your contribution, a guideline may be 1 percent of your annual salary or one hour's pay per month. Or if your annual salary is $50,000 or more, you may consider contributing at the 2 percent level.

Can my partner and I combine our gift?

Yes, you can combine your gift in order to reach the leadership level. For example, if you give $500 through the Johns Hopkins University campaign and your partner gives $500 through his or her company, the combined $1,000 allows both contributors to become leadership givers.

What is a leadership giver?

An individual or family who contributes $1,000 annually to the Johns Hopkins University United Way campaign.

How much is spent by United Way on overhead?

United Way of Central Maryland's overhead is 17.5 percent, compared with the average overhead cost for nonprofits of 26 percent.

How much do I have to contribute in order to be included in the Johns Hopkins lottery drawing?

All donors who pledge a minimum of $35 annually to United Way of Central Maryland will qualify.

When will I receive my pledge form?

All JHU pledge forms will be distributed by Oct. 3.

If I misplace or lose my pledge form, how do I obtain another?

Contact your departmental solicitor or divisional coordinator to obtain pledge materials. If you are not able to do so, contact the university's United Way administrator, Lesley Giles, at 410-516-0373 or

Will my contribution be kept confidential?

The Johns Hopkins University has a policy that individual donors' pledges and contributions shall remain confidential. It is extremely important that donors know that solicitors and coordinators do not have access to their pledge information. Under no circumstances should solicitors or coordinators collect pledges that are not in sealed envelopes, and under no circumstances should solicitors or coordinators open pledge envelopes. It is acceptable to collect a sealed envelope from everyone in a department as long as it is made clear that anyone who does not wish to give is free to return an empty envelope or a blank pledge form.

Does what's happening with United Way in Washington affect us?

No, your United Way donations stay local. There are hundreds of United Ways all across the nation, and each is an independent entity with its own rules and bylaws. United Way of the National Capital Area, which is under investigation for various financial charges, serves the District of Columbia; Fairfax, Prince Williams and Loudon counties in Virginia; and Prince George's and Montgomery counties in Maryland.


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