Johns Hopkins Gazette: September 9, 1996

A Look Back
Motivates United
Way Co-Chairs

United Way: Benedict,
Neal hope to surpass
1995's record goal
of $607,747...

Mike Field
Staff Writer

Last year, Hopkins faculty and staff from across the university joined hands to assist their neighbors. Their efforts helped feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and provide a range of services--everything from a vision screening program for preschoolers to daycare for seniors--to their fellow citizens in Baltimore City, and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties.

Much was accomplished.

Yet much remains to be done as the 1996 United Way Campaign opens later this month, with the ambitious goal of surpassing last year's record $607,747 in pledges and contributions.

"The university community has made a major commitment to the United Way campaign over the years," said Larry Benedict, dean of Homewood Student Affairs and this year's campaign chairman. "It's exciting that we did so well last year. The challenge will be to keep that momentum going."

Each year, over 600,000 people in Central Maryland benefit from the 300 health and human care services supported by gifts to the United Way. Originally founded in 1887 in Denver, Colo., the United Way acts as an umbrella organization, collecting and distributing funds for needed human services at the local level. Currently, there are 1,400 local United Ways, linking resources to community needs in cities and towns throughout America. "This campaign is a microcosm of how the United Way works," Benedict said. "Members of the Hopkins community are voluntarily raising money for the larger community, in this case the cities and counties in Central Maryland. We are demonstrating we are not just in the community but of the community as well, and that our neighbor's needs are important to the health and well-being of us all."

During the 1995 United Way of Central Maryland Campaign, donors pledged $36.2 million to help improve the quality of life in the region. The money raised was used to support adult literacy efforts in Baltimore City, counsel at-risk juveniles in Annapolis, conduct eye screening among preschoolers in Harford County, teach trades to the disabled in Howard County and enable elderly citizens with physical disabilities to live independent lives in Carroll County. These are just some of the more than 300 programs supported by contributions through the United Way.

"The United Way Campaign is a confirmation of the important role that the university plays in the larger community," said Jim Neal, Sheridan Director of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library, who is assisting Benedict as vice-chair of this year's campaign. Neal, who will chair next year's campaign, is leading the effort to increase leadership participation with gifts of $1,000 or more.

Although leadership-level gifts are made by only 5 percent of donors, they account for about 30 percent of the money raised, according to Neal, who said he has three goals in mind for this year's effort. "We want to retain those donors who gave so generously last year, we want to convince many of them to increase the size of their gifts, and we want to bring new people up to this level of giving," he said.

Three new initiatives should aid in that effort. This year United Way of Central Maryland has established a challenge grant for leadership giving that will match 50 cents to each dollar for all increased or first-time pledges of $1,000 or more.

Also, the agency has announced it will limit overhead costs to a maximum of $100 for contributions of $1,000 or more, a 10 percent or less overhead rate, which is far lower than the 25 percent or more typically required by many similar nonprofit agencies as operating costs.

Finally, to assure that larger contributions are put to work quickly within the community, United Way has pledged that all leadership contributions made in cash, check or stock will be paid to the designated agency within 30 days of receipt. The Hopkins campaign will even experiment with a new pledge card--as part of a unique pilot project--that will offer some donors the option to make their pledge by check or payroll deduction, as has always been the case, but also by credit card, or through a donation of stocks, bonds or other securities.

Gifts at all levels are important, stressed Benedict, who noted that payroll contributions are the primary source of funding for the United Way. "It's critical to see all levels of participation to make this effort work," he said. "This year we would like to increase the number of people giving at every level to help promote the sense that this is truly a community-based and community-focused effort."

"The entire Baltimore metropolitan area is affected positively by United Way," Neal said of the wide range of services supported by the effort. "Many people think of homeless shelters and food for the hungry, and these are important components of the United Way effort. But it is also the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Meals on Wheels for seniors, the Red Cross disaster relief efforts and a whole host of other social service programs that touch Marylanders from all backgrounds."

This year's campaign theme, "Open Your Heart," reflects the many possibilities inherent in every campaign pledge.

"Individuals have the ability to make their campaign pledge directly to the United Way, which in turn uses local volunteers trained in local needs to assign resources where they are most needed," Neal said. "Or they can target their gift to a specific United Way charity or designate it to any health and human service nonprofit organization. Contributors have a great deal of say in how their money is invested in the community."

As always, all donations are fully tax-deductible as charitable contributions.

"We've observed that this university has a deep well of commitment to volunteerism at every level," said Benedict, who, with Neal, has been roaming the campuses for the past month, spreading the word about the upcoming United Way Campaign. "Johns Hopkins as an institution is dedicated to service and to improving the lives of people everywhere. The United Way is a positive and accessible facet of that tradition in which we can all participate. We hope everyone will give serious consideration to joining this effort."

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