U Community Fund could fall short of fundraising goal

The Community Fund Drive allows employees to donate to about 500 local charities.

Danielle Nordine

With only 11 days left to fundraise, the University of Minnesota Community Fund Drive is still almost $750,000 short of its goal. The Community Fund Drive is a University fundraiser that provides faculty and staff an opportunity to donate to about 500 charities in the area by pledging online. The funds from the drive go to seven large charity federations, including Greater Twin Cities United Way and Community Health Charities Minnesota , which then distribute the funds to the hundreds of charities they oversee. In the past, donations to the fund averaged about $1.5 million each year, but this year the fundraising goal is $1.25 million. As of the end of last week, more than 1,800 employees, making up about 12 percent of the University employee population, had donated $509,530.34 to the fundraiser, which runs the entire month of October. This puts the fund significantly short of its goal, but Karen Wolterstorff, a lead volunteer for the drive and employee at the Institute of Technology , said there is usually a rush of contributions toward the end of the fundraiser each year. âÄú[The economy] is definitely an issue this year,âÄù said Doug Robertson , a lead volunteer for the drive and a professor at the College of Education and Human Development. âÄúPeople are hurting because of salary freezes, theyâÄôre angry about the economy and probably less likely to donate,âÄù he said. Wolterstorff said one way the drive is dealing with the downturn in the economy this year is by promoting participation, rather than focusing on the amount of the donation. Marten said the goal this year is 100 percent participation, though she admitted it is a âÄúlofty goal.âÄù In the past, participation has ranged from 20 to 35 percent of all University employees. All contributions to the Community Fund Drive can be made online, and the site allows employees to make a one-time donation or sign up to have money taken out of each paycheck. Employees can also choose which charity organizations they want their donation to be given to. âÄúItâÄôs a really good one-stop shop for employees to donate,âÄù Community Fund Drive Coordinator Bonnie Marten said. In addition to online pledges, some colleges and departments hold bake sales, host speakers and even put their deans in dunk tanks to raise more money for the fund. Marten, who also works in the Office of Human Resources , said a big message this year is that now, more than ever, more people are turning to charities for help and these organizations need donations. Marten said the amount raised in the first three weeks of the drive is about the same as in past years. Wolterstorff said she understands University employees are watching their money, âÄúbut itâÄôs important for us to be good citizens.âÄù âÄúThese organizations contribute so greatly to our society, and IâÄôm a firm believer in helping others,âÄù she said. The University has been donating to the same seven federations since 1931, when employees raised $14,084. âÄúEmployees have been very generous, even in tough economic times,âÄù Marten said. âÄúWe hope in this financial crisis people can still participate.âÄù