United Way campaign begins

by Kyle Mullins | 11/2/18 2:50am

Every year toward the end of fall term, the Lone Pine becomes the Giving Tree. Dartmouth’s annual fundraising campaign to support the Granite United Way began on Oct. 23 and aims to raise $290,000 by the end of the calendar year.

Dartmouth is the largest contributor to the campaign in the Upper Valley and the third largest in New Hampshire. Dartmouth employees’ contributions to United Way are distributed out to dozens of aid organizations in New Hampshire and Vermont. These donations go toward supporting “initiatives and programs that focus on Education, Income, and Health,” according to Granite United Way’s website.

“If you sit inside the Dartmouth bubble, it’s easy to miss how much need there is in this region and in this area,” said Rick Mills, the College’s executive vice president and chair of the campaign’s steering committee. “Those organizations are all doing real work where they’re meeting real need, and this is a chance to help contribute to that.”

Last year, the fundraising campaign had to be extended after it failed to meet its $300,000 goal. By the Dec. 15, 2017 deadline, roughly $285,000 had been raised.

In addition to the fundraising, Mills said there is “another softer goal of increasing participation and engagement in ways people feel they can engage,” including volunteering.

“Some folks in our community might not be in a position to make a financial contribution, but they still could engage and do volunteer work,” Mills said.

He noted that the College grants its employees one paid day off per year for volunteering at a United Way-supported organization.

Mimi Simpson, executive director in the president’s division and a member of the steering committee, said utilization of the paid day off had grown from 54 to 158 employees over the past two years.

“We’re hoping to elevate the volunteer profile of the institution,” Simpson said.

The campaign will promote charitable giving through a number of different channels. Several College departments have designated coordinators for the campaign.

Simpson noted that many of the different Dartmouth departments and organizations try to raise funds in “unique” ways, including raffles and contests. The role of the steering committee is “to help people behind the scenes to make sure they have what they need,” she said.

“We’re not doing it as a top-down, monolithic campaign,” Mills said. “The way the campaign rolls out at [the] Tuck [Business School] might be a little different than the way the campaign rolls out at [the] Geisel [School of Medicine], so each of them can do in their area what works for their area.”

Simpson noted the uniqueness of the athletics department’s approach to United Way.

“They give a dollar for every adult ticket sold during the first game of the year to the campaign,” she said.

Additionally, Dartmouth employees can sign up to donate through payroll deductions, splitting a large donation up among multiple pay periods.

“We find that ... this is a big incentive for [employees] because they want to be supportive but they have a hard time writing a big check at one time,” Simpson said.

Katie Kent, area director of Granite United Way for the Upper Valley, said that in addition to Dartmouth, United Way has secured corporate partnerships with companies in the region, including Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Ledyard Bank, Fujifilm and Hypertherm. Thanks in part to this support, she said, 48 organizations in the Upper Valley received funding last year from Granite United Way.

“Donations go to fund the bigger, well-known agencies like Upper Valley Haven, but also smaller organizations that people may not know much about,” Kent said, citing the Second Wind Foundation, the Springfield Family Center and Valley Court Diversion Programs as examples of the latter.

She added that organizations of all sizes “are crucial for a healthy community.”

“So it’s not just the big ones, they all kind of play off each other and all serve a special purpose in the community,” Kent said.

Valley Court Diversion Programs is a 501(c)(3) organization that aims to help residents of Windsor County, Vermont, and portions of Grafton County, New Hampshire access restorative justice programs, according to its website. Valley Court Diversion Programs executive director Ellen Wicklum emphasized the importance of United Way’s support for the organization.

“United Way has been a real friend to us over the years,” Wicklum said. “We have gotten money from them every year for a while.”