United Way Campaign Raises Highest Total from Most Donors Ever

“Behind every life-changing event or moment, there’s someone who made that happen,” said Greg Scott, senior vice chancellor of business and operations and chair of this year’s Pitt United Way Campaign. “That someone is you.”

Scott was speaking to an audience of campaign managers and volunteers at a luncheon celebrating the conclusion of this year’s campaign — the most successful in University history, where more than $712,000 raised by the University’s staff, faculty and retiree community.

The University of Pittsburgh raised nearly $713,000 this year — the highest total ever. More than 2,600 donors — an 18% increase over last ear and the most donors ever — contributed an average of $274 to the campaign. More than a third of the total raised — $250,000 — was made up of gifts less than $1,000. Nearly 800 new donors contributed this year, and more than 550 people increased their gift.

“This doesn’t happen by itself,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, who also spoke the luncheon. “It happens through all of you. Through your effort, the breadth and depth of this campaign is one of the most powerful ways we give back.”

‘Incredible creativity and energy’

“Something that really stood out to me this year was the incredible creativity and energy from campaign managers volunteers to increase faculty and staff engagement beyond fundraising,” said Kate McGlynn, campaign director and manager of administration in the Office of Institutional Advancement.

Throughout the year, University-wide special events offered faculty and staff a variety of such opportunities.

The Center for Creativity hosted literacy kit workshops where faculty and staff decorated bags and a bookmark for inclusion in the 100,000 Books Campaign. Over three years, the campaign has collected more than 105,000 books to improve the reading skills of local children and provide them quality books.

“The program brought together faculty and staff from across the University in a way that informed hands-on making with a sense of community. We heard from participants that the connections they made, the conversations as they created their bags and bookmarks, were an important part of the creative process,” said Erik Schuckers, workshop manager at the Center for Creativity.

Read more about University-wide United Way events, including the annual Day of Caring and the Re-Gift and Thrift Sale.

LaKeisha Gray, benefits analyst in the Office of Human Resources, called this year’s Hoodies for the Holidays event, which collects cold-weather clothing to distribute to people to keep warm, incredible.

“It was so amazing to see all the many ideas discussed at the host committee meetings come to life at Heinz Field. The atmosphere overall was such a positive and enjoyable one,” Gray said.

Across departments

At a department level, many units across campus organized and executed their own events like hoagie and cookie sales, weekly raffles and team contests to raise donations and awareness. These special events netted more than $22,000 to support the 2018 campaign.

Read more about how the University’s United Way champions in Pitt Business and Facilities Management encouraged participation among colleagues.

Staff in the Office of University Communications held a fall pumpkin carving and decorating contest where the pumpkins that received the most votes — votes being cash and coins which were pooled and donated to the campaign — received office bragging rights for the year.

Michael Balderson, director of administration in and campaign manager for the office, said that the event was a big hit. “We were able to help out our Pittsburgh community and have a great time while doing it. We hope it will become an annual tradition.”

At the luncheon, departments including Computing Services and Systems Development, Institutional Advancement and the Medical and Health Sciences Foundation and the offices Human Resources, Business and Auxiliary Services, Student Financial Services and Registrar, were honored for the successful coordination of events that raised more than $1,000.

Community support

In the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, the campaign offered a way for faculty and staff to direct their donations to support the victims and families impacted by the shooting.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh reported in March that globally, more than $6 million was raised from 8,500 donors from 48 states and eight countries through the Our Victims of Terror Fund to support families of the victims, injured first responders and other affected congregations.

“The campaign is always about building community, not just in the financial and volunteer support we are generating for our region, but also in the connections we are making with each other here on campus,” said McGlynn. “We have a strong and ever-growing support network for the campaign with new ideas and opportunities being generated all the time. As we grow stronger in our work together, we are also improving our ability to respond to and assist each other through the hardships to come.”

Solving intractable problems

Robert Nelkin, who in December 2018 announced he would step down as president and chief executive officer of the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, also spoke at the luncheon.

“Spirit is not just compassion, passion and activism,” Nelkin told the audience. “There are different ways we help people, and one of those ways is thought leadership — to change the world around us.”

He discussed several ways, including Coaching Boys into Men, an evidence-based program for high school coaches that aims to help them talk to their male athletes about stopping violence against women and girls. Led by Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, the program’s long-term goal is to reduce disrespectful and harmful behavior.

He also noted the next phase of the 100,000 Books Campaign will feature a focus on books about respect and understanding each other’s’ differences. Nelkin sees these efforts and others as ways to address the “intractable problems we’re trying to solve.”

“We wake up every day, and every day we can make some effort to stand up for what’s right,” he said.

  • Greg Scott (right), senior vice chancellor of business and operations and this year’s United Way campaign chair, greets Robert Nelkin (left), who in December 2018 announced his intention to step down as president and CEO of the United Way Southwestern Pennsylvania. In remarks at the event, Nelkin discussed ways he hopes to continue work to address “intractable problems we’re trying to solve.” (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • In his opening remarks, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher called Pitt’s involvement in the United Way campaign “one of the most powerful ways we give back” and University’s commitment to the community around us is “a promise you all help fulfill.” (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Kathy Humphrey (left), senior vice chancellor for engagement and secretary of the Board of Trustees, greeted Lee Ann Munger, development officer for the Women’s Leadership Council of the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Employees from the Office of Computing Services and Systems Development raised more than $6,000 in donations from departmental special events. Mike Casella (center left) served as campaign manager highlighted the support of the whole team as a secret to engagement. “A lot of people are very enthusiastic to participate and give back to the community,” he said. From left: Greg Scott, Jennifer Decima, Casella, Jeffrey Rhoades, Cindy Wertz and Dwight Helfrich. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Greg Scott (right) joins employees from the offices of the University Registrar, Business and Auxiliary Services and Human Resources, all of which raised more than $1,000 in donations from special events each. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)