For Your Benefit: Giving Made Easy — and Just Where You Want

November 3, 2013 | CUNY Matters, The University

By Barbara Fischkin

The Bronx Community College Early Childhood Center

The Bronx Community College Early Childhood Center

Like so many employees, CUNY donors give to charity when they can — a lot or a little depending on their own financial situations. Giving makes people feel good.

But what can so often stymie so many is the bureaucracy of giving, particularly if the choice is to spread the donations around to various worthy causes. There are envelopes to mail, websites and passwords to remember. Sometimes it is easier not to do it at all.

The University, however, has a way for employees to shortcut this process.  It is part of the 2013 CUNY Campaign for Voluntary Giving, now in its 30th year.  By going to one website CUNY employees can choose how much, when and to whom they want to donate.

“It is simple and seamless for employees,” says Sheila O’Connor, director of Public Employee Campaigns for Earthshare, a national nonprofit federation  that is managing the campaign for CUNY. “There is no limit to the number of charities to which employees can donate and they are able to spread their donations out over the course of a year.”

Pledging is now open and continues until Dec. 13.

University Vice Chancellor For Human Resources Management Gloriana Waters is chairing this year’s campaign, with its goal of raising $500,000. Its theme is: “The Power of One.” Pointing out that CUNY has nearly 40,000 employees, Waters says that “if each of us gave only one dollar per week, it would amount to four times that amount.”

In a twist that speaks in a good way to the adage “charity begins at home,” CUNY employees may elect to help CUNY’s own programs through the website; the University’s employees and students can benefit from their own charitable contributions and those of other employees.

More than 35 CUNY-based organizations are listed on a drop-down menu.  They include college foundations that provide scholarships, campus child care centers, performing arts centers and other college-based nonprofits that benefit students, staff and the local community. O’Connor says total giving to CUNY-based organizations from CUNY employees was $205,000 in 2012, about 40 percent of the total amount raised.

For example, the CUNY Campaign for Voluntary Giving is part of the fabric of life at the Bronx Community College’s Early Childhood Center. For at least the past four years all employees have donated to the campaign, and, through the campaign, to the center as well. At a cost of only $5 a day, the center provides day care and after-school care to about 128 children between the ages of 2 and 12 while their parents attend class. It is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. for preschoolers and from 4 to 10 p.m. for after-school care for students 5 years of age and older. The requirement: Parents need to be in class while their children attend. “Everybody who works at the center gave a little,” says the center’s Executive Director Jitinder Walia, echoing Waters’ view that a lot of people can donate small amounts and make a difference. The center has grown from eight staff members four years ago to 24 now.

Tasaion Miller, who hopes to graduate with a degree in paralegal studies from the community college, brings her 3-year-old son to the center while she attends class. “It’s clean. They give the children lunch. And they teach them everything, like a good pre-school,” she says. “Could a parent of a young child even come to school without day care?  And the price is so much less than day care. I attend school four days a week and pay $80 a month.”

Outside of CUNY, charities on the website are organized into a broad array of categories including civil rights, environmental, global, health and medical, community causes and others, including some described even more broadly as “independent charities of America” and “unaffiliated.” About 1200 charities, all nonprofits, are listed and they have to apply to be on the site and verify that they are in compliance with all state and federal laws.  Employees can also suggest charities for next year’s campaign by emailing O’Connor at sheila@earthshare.org.

To register to give to the campaign please visit: www.cuny.edu/campaign