Campus & Community

Community Gifts campaign revs up for another season of giving

4 min read

This is the first in a series of Gazette articles highlighting some of the many initiatives and charities that Harvard affiliates can support through the Community Gifts Through Harvard Campaign.

The University’s employee drive for charities, Community Gifts Through Harvard, is an open-choice campaign that runs throughout the month of November.

The United Way of Massachusetts Bay is the most popular choice among the University’s giving programs, with two-thirds of Harvard donors allocating money to the organization. Harvard raised $330,895 for the nonprofit in 2005.

It’s easy to understand why. United Way of Massachusetts Bay serves 64 cities and towns across Eastern Massachusetts and supports a network of 259 nonprofit agencies, which go through a rigorous review process each year to ensure they do the best possible work in the community.

The United Way also advocates for social issues and convenes community leaders from across all sectors to solve local human-services problems. The organization seeks long-term solutions to emerging social challenges, raising funds through workplace campaigns and individual donors.

Investments are targeted to four interdependent areas: healthy child development, increasing youth opportunities, sustainable employment, and affordable housing.

Recent efforts included a summit called “Young Minds Matter” that addressed the social and emotional well-being of children, birth to age 5. “Young Minds Matter” focuses on services and policies that will ensure positive outcomes for children across the commonwealth.

The organization also assisted in hosting a “Housing First” conference, highlighting the program’s bold new policy approach to ending homelessness in Massachusetts. It is based on the premise that individuals and families are more responsive to interventions and support once they are in permanent housing.

This year, more than 10,500 families in the state – including more than 20,000 children – will experience homelessness. While the emergency shelter system is a critical safety net for families in crisis, studies are showing that children living in a shelter system suffer unintentional social, emotional, and educational harm that is often irreparable.

A “Housing First” goal is to place families and individuals immediately into supportive housing. Case managers then help tenants access mainstream services such as job and life skills training and health care. It is an innovative strategy that has worked in cities, counties, and states across the nation and is gaining momentum in Massachusetts.

And United Way joined forces with other local funders to provide much-needed money to expand programs serving at-risk youth in Boston this past summer.

The funds bolstered efforts at 15 major organizations, including five YMCAs, two Boys & Girls Clubs, as well as nine Boston Community Center sites. It enabled existing programs to remain open later in the evening and put an additional nine street outreach workers into targeted neighborhoods deemed especially at risk.

Harvard is still the highest contributor to the United Way in the educational division – a distinction that has not gone unnoticed.

“On behalf of the Board of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and all those who benefit directly and indirectly from our work, I would like to thank the Harvard community for its most generous contributions,” said Milton J. Little Jr., president and CEO of United Way of Massachusetts Bay. “Hundreds of people’s lives are materially and positively affected by your kindness and generosity,”

There is a new donor program this year called the “Caring Club” that will provide an added incentive to keep giving – or give for the first time. The “Caring Club” was created to recognize and thank United Way supporters. “Caring Club” members will receive special discounts from participating area retailers, restaurants, and entertainment venues. To be eligible for the program, you must make a minimum annual contribution of $156 to United Way’s Community Impact or Targeted Care Fund. You will receive a “Caring Club” membership card, which is valid for one year.

– Alanna Kelleher