SMU’s United Way drive exceeds goals, with room to grow in 2012

United Way of Metropolitan Dallas logoSMU’s 2011 United Way campaign ended with $70,723 raised, exceeding its fund-raising goal of $70,000. Now a different kind of campaign is set to begin – one to create service opportunities for faculty and staff members and build year-round awareness of community needs.

The University’s United Way Committee is planning faculty-staff volunteer trips to partner agencies Goodwill Industries and Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind during the spring 2012 term, says Steve Edwards, professor of advertising and Faculty Senate president-elect. Edwards co-chaired SMU’s 2011 United Way campaign with Assistant Dean of Central University Libraries Bill Dworaczyk, Staff Association past-president.

“We want to give our campus community the opportunity not just to see how our money is being spent, but to further reach out and serve the communities in which we live,” Edwards says. “Faculty and staff members will bring their volunteer experiences back to the University, and we plan on sharing what we learn during these service opportunities in newsletters, videos, and at faculty and staff meetings around the campus. Our goal is to mobilize United Way supporters at SMU by letting them share the good works provided by this community’s donations.”

The 2011 campaign saw a 19.6% increase in SMU participation over the 2010 campaign, yet there is plenty of room for those numbers to grow, Edwards says. “We are making progress in getting the SMU community to recognize the value of the United Way. Still, for 2011, about 10% of our number made a monetary donation. That means we need to do a better job in communicating the needs that exist in the Dallas area and the important service that the United Way provides in making sure recipient agencies are using the money efficiently.”

Faculty and staff members can also increase participation by making some of their usual charitable contributions through SMU’s United Way campaign, Edwards adds. “Recently I spoke to a fellow faculty member who told me he had just discovered that Children’s Medical Center is a United Way partner. He told me that next year he will make his donation through SMU. This is the kind of information we must get out to the campus community.”

In 2011, SMU became the first United Way donor organization to use a text-to-give option in a campaign, an initiative spearheaded by Jennifer (JJ) Jones of Student Development and Programs. The new program – which allows donors to send $10 through a text message – achieved its goal of increasing student involvement, yet it was not the only successful new program for the year.

Toys collected for Children's Medical Center in SMU's 2011 Toys for Tickets holiday programThe campaign also achieved significant boosts from innovations such as Park ’N Pony’s  “Toys for Tickets” parking-citation forgiveness program, Edwards says. The initiative allowed SMU students, faculty and staff members to get waivers for outstanding parking fines in exchange for toys of value equal to or greater than the amount due. The toys (pictured left) were donated to United Way partner Children’s Medical Center.

“Between our toy-drive collection boxes on campus and the Toys for Tickets program, we had a Suburban and a Toyota filled to the brim with toys to deliver to Children’s,” says Darrah Rippy, senior manager of academic scheduling in the Office of the Registrar and SMUSA’s vice president of service and activities.

In addition to the toys, SMUSA also collected $240 in cash and gift cards, Rippy adds. “I know the staff at Children’s was thrilled to receive such a wonderful donation, and we felt really blessed to be able to bring a little Christmas cheer to the children who spent the holidays in the hospital.”

SMUSA plans to continue both its toy drives and Toys for Tickets “for as long as Children’s Medical Center remains a United Way Member Agency,” says Denton Bricker, McFarlin Auditorium manager and 2011-12 SMUSA president. “We always support a United Way agency to help with SMU’s campaign efforts.”

The campaign’s momentum came from the top as well, Edwards says. “Meeting with President Turner early in the campaign to secure his active support helped educate the SMU leadership and Council of Deans. Getting University administrators to understand the true impact of the United Way allowed them to become advocates for the campaign itself.

“These programs would not have been possible without the support of the SMU administrators heading up these units, and we thank them all,” Edwards says.

President Turner saluted the campaign’s success in his “State of SMU” address during the 2012 Staff Recognition Ceremony Feb. 16. “If we claim to be Dallas’ university – and during this centennial era we’re really affirming it – then we need to show that we can give as well as receive. This year is the first year we’ve passed $70,000, and I thank everyone involved for doing that.”

The United Way does not stop working just because the campaign is not active, Edwards points out. In response, the committee is planning a series of activities to engage the SMU community throughout the year.

“We want to share the success of the campaign and let people know that their contributions are appreciated,” Edwards says. “We want people to know what their money will buy.” Specifically, he says, almost $71,000 will change 710 lives in the following ways:

  • Provide routine dental care to 474 low-income children so they can avoid costly health problems later in life.
  • Provide financial education for 147 young mothers so they can raise their children in a stable home.
  • Provide tutoring and mentoring services to 89 low-income children so they can be the first in their family to attend college – and make sure they’re ready for the challenge.

The committee will share news about upcoming United Way service opportunities and profiles of partner agencies throughout the spring term.

About Kathleen Tibbetts

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