Speaking Out

Demise of Combined Campaign

Some years ago Penn employees, through a referendum, expressed a preference for the Combined Campaign approach to charitable giving in which employees had a choice of contributing through United Way or several other umbrella organizations. The year after the Combined Campaign was introduced, charitable giving on campus set a record.

Yesterday I learned through a mailing from Women's Way that Penn has ended the Combined Campaign and will now channel all contributions made on campus through United Way. Those of us who wish to donate to Women's Way (or Bread and Roses, the Black United Way, or any other organization which used to be able to receive campus donations directly) through Penn must do so through United Way, which will take a percentage of the money (so far Women's Way has not been told how much this will be).

This brings several questions to mind. Was this reversion a conscious decision or, (one hopes) were those who made the decision simply unaware of the earlier referendum and of the enormous effort by dedicated Penn faculty and staff which lead to the creation of the Combined Campaign? Can a dialogue be re-initiated among campus contributors about the process by which fund-raising is managed?

Most importantly, what percentage of contributions is United Way going to take? (One year when I served as a United Way coordinator, I was stunned to learn how much it took from contributions and how difficult it was for potential donors to get that information). When needs in the community are so desperate, every dollar spent on unnecessary administrative costs matters.

-- Mary Morris Heiberger, Associate Director, Career Planning and Placement Service

Response to Ms. Heiberger

After careful consideration of the goals of the Penn's Way campaign, which are to provide an attractive and convenient way for employees to give to their favorite charitable organization and to maximize their giving, a decision was made to allow United Way to administer the Penn's Way campaign. This was indeed a conscious decision, designed to run a more professional and financially successful campaign than those in previous years.

Penn's Way will continue as a Combined Campaign with the same Partner Organizations included in the Penn's Way Guide '97. United Way will be producing the campaign materials, processing donor pledges, providing customer service, providing magnetic tape conversions, sending acknowledgments to donors and issuing payments to recipients. For these services they will charge an 11.9% administrative fee, the cost of which will be borne by the recipeient organizations.

All costs for these services, with the exception of the campaign materials, have been borne solely by the University for the past five years. These costs were not insignificant, nor was the time and effort of the employees we asked to manage this effort. With the implementation of FinMIS as well as many other business initiatives, the efforts required of the Comptroller's Office (as well as other members of the University community) to run a financially successful campaign could no longer be guaranteed. Therefore we asked United Way to assist us in administering Penn's Way.

In addition to the Committee's concern regarding the administration of the Campaign, there was also a concern about Penn's Way's financial performance. In 1995, Penn's Way raised $406,850. In 1996, this dropped to $304,386. Clearly, this is not good news for our Partner Organizations, and a trend Penn needs to reverse. The Committee believes that the arrangement with United Way will help improve fundraising results.

By transferring the administrative responsibility to an organization that has the time, expertise and resources to manage the process involved in charitable giving, future campaign committees will be able to focus their attention on building awareness across the Penn community and thus increasing Penn's contributions to our designated charitable organizations.

The suggestion to reinitiate a dialogue among campus contributors about how the fundraising process is managed is sound. However, given the recent downturn in Penn's Way contributions, this dialogue should be coupled with a more complete assessment of how Penn employees wish to support charitable organizations.

-- John A. Fry, Executive Vice President

--Carol R. Scheman, Vice President for Government, Community, & Public Affairs

Speaking Out

Holding: A letter criticizing some remarks attributed to the managing director of public safety in the Philadelphia Inquirer November 3, 1996, has been held for response in next week's issue.-Ed.


Volume 43 Number 12
November 12, 1996

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