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Campaign charities spend every penny
October 5, 1998

When the dust cleared after last year's Connecticut State Employees' Campaign for Charitable Giving, $1,037,000 had been contributed to the fund statewide, including $94,783 from UConn employees.

Every penny was spent on the cause by contributors. Not a nickel was used for administrative expenses.

"The agencies that state employees contribute to agreed they would finance their overhead from someplace other than our donations," says Jan Gwudz, director of the state employees campaign, which began its 1998 fund drive last week. "Our rules are very strict. Before we accept any agency into the fold, the board of directors makes sure they meet all our criteria."

More than 900 agencies meet those criteria, giving state employees a huge variety of causes they can support through their contributions. (This year, UConn's goal is $100,000.) Besides 25 local United Ways, the agencies, all of which fall under the umbrella of one of 10 federations, support arts organizations, environmental groups, international relief efforts, children, women, the homeless, the needy and the hurting.

Dozens of major national charitable organizations fit under the local and national umbrella, household names to many: the American Red Cross, the American Cancer Society, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of America, the Environmental Defense Fund, Consumers Union of the United States, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, National Kidney Foundation, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and hundreds more that have touched virtually everyone's life at one time or another. But, no matter how large, they all undergo the same scrutiny before they can receive donations from state employees.

No organization, Gwudz says, can spend more than 25 percent of their receipts, from whatever source, on administrative overhead. Most spend less than 20 percent. The agencies must list their administrative costs in the state employee campaign directory that UConn employees will receive during the week.

Each organization also must be a non-profit corporation, operated by an unpaid, volunteer board of directors, and must be registered as such with the state Division of Consumer Protection, and with the Office of the State Attorney General.

Knowing that every penny counts makes giving that much easier, Gwudz says.

"I did some math recently, and realized that if every state employee contributed only $1 per paycheck, a total of only $26 per year, we could give these charities more than $3 million. I spend more than that every day on coffee. Imagine what that could do for children, for our sick and aged," she says.

Departmental volunteers on campus will be circulating donor cards during the week, as well as the directory listing nearly 1,000 charities. And workers whose cards have been turned in by October 15 will be eligible for the first set of raffle drawings connected to the campaign, prizes that include gift certificates to Jorgensen Auditorium, area restaurants, UConn athletic events, and more. The drawings will be held during a gala 1950s luncheon, featuring cheddar-topped burgers, foot-long hot dogs, root beer floats, fries and onion rings and more. The luncheon runs from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom.

The campaign concludes, and the final raffle prizes will be distributed - including a free core parking space for a year and UConn men's and women's basketball tickets - during a Fall Fest and bake sale October 29 on the Student Union patio.

Richard Veilleux