The United Way has begun calling faculty at home to ask how they will vote on a referendum which will determine how the University will distribute charity, faculty members said yesterday. The United Way, an umbrella organization for 2700 groups, has historically been the sole vehicle through which faculty and staff could pledge donations to fundraising groups. The Committee for a Combined Campaign at Penn is proposing that donations go directly to fundraising organizations without using the United Way as an intermediary. The four current fundraising organizations the committee is promoting are already under the United Way. Faculty Senate Chairperson Almarin Phillips said last night that he and other faculty members have received phone calls from a polling organization, claiming to act on behalf of the United Way. Phillips said that "there is resentment among faculty members" over the phone-in poll. He said he is concerned that the United Way may be "expending an exorbitant amount of money at Penn to influence the vote." The faculty senate chairperson added that it troubles him that the United Way may be spending money on the phone campaign when many are concerned that it already "costs too much to donate through the United Way." Religious Studies Department Chairperson Ann Matter said last night she has a policy of not speaking with any solicitors on the phone at home, but added that she is "especially offended by [the United Way] calling me on the phone." "I know there is a political basis," Matter said. "They wanted to press their case." Combined Campaign committee member David Rudovsky, who is a senior law fellow, also received a phone call, saying that the United Way is "out to defeat a fairer campaign and one that has produced more money." Joe Divis, a United Way spokesperson, did not directly confirm yesterday that the United Way hired a polling organization to make phone calls to faculty. He said the United Way is a company whose customers are donors and that they therefore conduct customer research regularly. "All I can say right now is that an organization that raises money has to know what donors think," he said. United Way Associate Director of Resource Development Jesse Starks declined to comment on the poll last night. Both the United Way and the Combined Campaign committee agree that the fall charity campaign raised $371,000 this year -- an increase from $290,000 last year -- and that the number of participants has increased greatly. But the agreement stops there, as the two groups dispute the reasons for the surge. Combined Campaign committee supporters said the implementation of a partially-combined campaign in the past two years has offered a more direct path to the donors' choices, thereby bringing in the greater funds and more contributors. United Way supporters argue that they already are a "combined" campaign and that the increase in money is unrelated to the efforts of the Combined Campaign committee. The partially-combined campaign first appeared on campus in fall 1988, when President Sheldon Hackney allowed four other umbrella organizations to distribute literature, separate from the United Way. However, the United Way still controlled the mechanism of the pledges. The following year, Hackney allowed the four campaigns to be recognized on the pledge card in addition to the United Way, so donations would not be subject to United Way administrative costs. Both sides dispute how much these administrative costs are. The Combined Campaign committee argues that the United Way subtracts a large administrative cost through its donor choice option, while their model is more direct and benefits the recipient more. Combined Campaign committee member Rudovsky said over the past two years there has been a significant increase in the amount of money given because the combined campaign has been partially instituted. "Before, the campaign was stagnant," Rudovsky said. "Two years ago it went up 15 percent and this year even more." Rudovsky also said this increase has been demonstrated in combined campaigns throughout the U.S. "The experience of a combined campaign across the country has shown an average increase of over 90 percent of the amount given," Rudovsky said. The United Way feels that the committee's proposal gives an unfair marketing advantage to selected organizations. They also maintain that the raise in the donations is not due to other fundraising organizations being on the pledge card. United Way's Divis argued that employee campaigns have increased in other workplaces without the addition of the combined campaign. Divis showed statistics last night that showed that at places where combined campaigns were not an issue, donations increased. He showed that one business, donations rose 159 percent last year and participation was up by 90 percent. Divis said calling the new model a "combined campaign" is misleading term because United Way is already combined campaign of 2700 organizations. He added that donors can select their preferred fundraising organization on their donor cards. Jane Combrinck-Graham, a member of the Combined Campaign committee has argued that many United Way members are outsiders who are attempting to influence University policy, while her organization consists of only University faculty and staff. "The people who are trying to make a change are faculty and staff," Combrinck-Graham said. "The people who are opposing this change are outsiders, not members of this community and they have professional interest in the outcome."Comments powered by Disqus
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