Bridge is published by the Boston University Office of University Relations.
steps up to the collection platewith $180,000 United Way goal
While many Americans are braced for leaner times ahead, some can't tighten
their belts another notch. Even before the current economic downturn,
studies estimated that more than 10,000 Massachusetts families are homeless
and more than 60,000 children go to bed hungry each night.
Yet these figures don't begin to account for all the people who benefit
from contributions to the United Way of Massachusetts Bay. The organization
provides financial support to more than 200 health and human services
agencies in 80 eastern Massachusetts cities and towns -- agencies that
help hold families together, assist the elderly, treat substance abusers,
and engage disabled people in meaningful, satisfying activities. United
Way is the second-largest funder of human services in Massachusetts, after
the state government.
This year the United Way of Massachusetts Bay has set a fundraising target
of $56 million. On October 4 the organization kicked off its annual BU
campaign, the largest the University undertakes for charity, with the
goal of raising $180,000 from faculty and staff by November 16.
"The United Way needs our help now more than ever," says Marvin
Cook, BU vice president of planning, budgeting, and information and the
University's United Way campaign manager.
All employees received a pledge card in the mail last week. An accompanying
pamphlet lists the agencies and programs for which donors can earmark
their contributions. Through the drive an employee can also give to a
group that is not affiliated with the United Way, as long as it is a 501(C)3
not-for-profit organization, but is not a school, hospital, or place of
The most useful contributions, however, are the ones that go into the
United Way's Community Fund, according Carmen Fields (COM'73), United
Way senior director of communications. Each year, United Way volunteers
thoroughly evaluate all the affiliated charities to decide how much money
each one should receive, she says, and a lot of this aid is drawn from
the pooled fund.
BU employees who contribute $75 or more ($1.45 a week) will be eligible
to win incentive prizes, which will be raffled off at drawings every Friday
from October 19 through November 16 and at the University holiday party
on December 20. The prizes include a Palm Pilot 3C, Beanpot Tournament
tickets, a $200 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble, a dinner cruise
for two aboard the Spirit of Boston, Boston Pops tickets, and a travel
package for two to any location in the United States.
"The odds of winning one of these prizes," says Cook, "are
a lot better than the odds of winning the state lottery."
According to recent news reports, the stock market dip on top of the devastation
caused by the terrorist attacks has strained private philanthropies and
corporate-giving programs. That makes fundraising a tougher job for agencies
not solely dedicated to helping attack victims' families. But the United
Way is confident it can weather the difficult times, Fields says. The
new chapter-wide campaign target of $56 million is $3 million higher than
"We're accustomed to operating in a very competitive philanthropic
atmosphere," she says. "There are very large, deserving nonprofit
institutions we compete with for dollars on a daily basis. That's not
to say recent events won't have any impact, but fortunately people have
been generous, and we have every reason to hope they will continue to
No doubt the economic slump will set off ripple effects, Fields says.
Laid-off workers will turn increasingly to United Way charities for job
counseling, for instance, and families who can no longer afford their
apartments will seek help finding food and shelter.
One-third of all Bay State residents rely on a United Way agency at some
point in their lifetime, Fields adds, "and that statistic may very
One agency that expects to see more clients than before is the Ellis Memorial
and Eldredge House on Berkeley Street. Established in 1885 as a settlement
house for immigrants, it is now open to all community residents in need,
offering child care, activities for teenagers, services for the frail
elderly and handicapped, and support for foster families who take in abused
and neglected children.
Leo Delaney, the agency's executive director, says he receives $160,000
of his $2.2 million budget from the United Way. Last year alone, Ellis
Memorial spent $161,000 on child care scholarships. Delaney knows many
working parents who cannot afford quality day care yet earn too much to
qualify for state subsidies.
"What happens is those families seek alternative care or underground
child-care centers that are not licensed, not safe, and not high quality,"
he says. "Without United Way investment dollars, these families would
not have quality care and would fall between the cracks."
Fields reminds contributors that the United Way supplies more than financial
assistance to charities; it also provides them with technical support,
staff training, and help with fiscal management. The United Way keeps
in close touch with civic, business, and political leaders to determine
the community's greatest areas of need.
"The United Way is more than a fundraiser," Fields says. "It's
a community problem-solver."
For more information on giving to the
United Way, call 617-358-UWAY