April 7, 2012

Cornell United Way Exceeds Fundraising Goal

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Exceeding its fundraising goal of $805,000 this year, Cornell United Way, an organization that raises money to support human services agencies in Tompkins County, has surpassed its largest annual goal to date. It raised $15,000 more in its fundraising campaign than it did last year.

Cornell United Way is a subgroup of the United Way of Tompkins County, which supports 42 member organizations and numerous nonprofits in the area and strives to better lives by rallying the “caring power” of the community. It allocates the money it raises “based [on a] volunteer-based review and decision process,” according to Paul Streeter, chair of the Cornell United Way Campaign.

“One hundred percent of the money raised is spent within our community,” Streeter said.

Streeter and other on-campus volunteers set their goal this year “expecting to exceed it.”

“It just felt like a goal of $805,000 was, sure, a bit of a stretch, but not too much,” Streeter said. “We thought we could hit it.”

Additionally, Streeter said, the group set its fundraising goal believing members of the community would be supportive in helping them achieve it.

“We knew it would be hard, but the community, Cornell, has a very, very strong tradition of supporting the county campaign,” Streeter said. “So we were optimistic. Our community responded.”

Fundraising for the goal involved a campus-wide effort. About 13,000 pledge cards asking for donations were given to Cornell faculty, including a group of retirees. All contributions were voluntary, he said.

“It takes everyone in our community to work toward the goal each year that we set for the United Way, and it creates a brighter future, hopefully to be passed on down the road, as each year the goal gets bigger and bigger,” said Margarite Cornwell, campaign ambassador for the admissions and financial aid division of Cornell United Way. “It’s helping our children, the youth, the community.”

Cornell United Way also receives help from volunteers working on its student campaign, which is led by co-chairs Jessica Zhao ’12 and Alan Workman ’13.

“They do a tremendous job, students as a whole,” Streeter said. “But it’s really their leadership that brings this about, and we wouldn’t make our campus goal without their effort.”

Zhao said the student campaign raises an estimated $30,000 to 35,000 annually through on-campus student-targeted fundraisers, such as A Capella United in the fall and Duff Ball in the spring.

“I think that all the work we do, whether it’s in the Ithaca town or on campus, is really intertwined,” she said. “This is such a wonderful opportunity to help strengthen that relationship.”

Streeter said that next year’s goal will not be set until this summer. Though setting an aggressive goal remains important, he said, it must also be realistic.

The University and the United Way of Tompkins County work together closely in their fundraising efforts. For instance, the two groups collaborate using databases that track people who receive pledge cards in order to minimize the “duplication of effort,” according to Linda Charles, customer service representative at the Cornell Business Service Center.

“I just see [the relationship] getting stronger, and I just see more awareness being raised, whether it’s on campus through the events that are going on or the administration,” Zhao said.

Charles said that as the campaign began to draw to a close, he was nervous about the group’s ability to meet its fundraising goal. Still, “we pulled it off,” he said.

Zhao echoed Charles, but added that she was ultimately impressed by the community’s support for the campaign.

“Sometimes, when you do look at the number, it seems so large you’re not really entirely sure how it’s going to happen, but we met the goal that was set before,” she said. “It’s really amazing how people really step up and work toward the goal and the campaign.”

Despite the fact that Cornell United Way often exceeds its yearly goal, Cornwell said that this year’s campaign was particularly exciting.

Original Author: Lianne Bornfeld