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Dec. 8, 2011 Volume 33, No. 15

Friendly competition generates university’s highest donation total in United Way history


University meets goal of $690,000 for Heart of Missouri United Way

Clint Klipfel was determined to instigate a rivalry. During the week of University Hospital’s “Penny Wars,” the hospitality coordinator loaded each jar onto a roaming cart and wheeled them around to each unit, asking for change to donate to the United Way.

For the game, each unit was pitted against each other and asked to donate pennies to their own jar for positive points, and larger monies to other floors’ jars for negative points. The unit with the most positive or least negative score was deemed the winner of a goody basket sponsored by 7West.

“It took people a little bit to understand what was going on,” Klipfel said of the fundraiser’s inaugural year. “But once they did, people really got into it.”

Klipfel said sister floors hit each other especially hard, and in the end the Penny Wars raised $256.76 to add to the $306.41 from the hospital’s bake sale at the end of the week.

The money was handed over to the Heart of Missouri United Way as a part of the university’s annual campaign.

With the help of several departmental bake sales, chili cook-offs, events such as “dress down” week and a dunking booth, Mizzou and UM System employees in Columbia have now raised $690,000 — right on goal — topping last year’s amount by $10,000.

“I’m thrilled,” said Tim Rich, executive director and chief performance officer for Heart of Missouri United Way. “In every way, shape and form, the university leads the community,”

Competitive cooking was a favorite fundraiser this year among Tiger donors. Last winter’s brutal weather found the staff of the Division of University Affairs* in want of hot food and heartwarming camaraderie. The solution: a chili-for-charity cook-off. Culinarily inclined staff members created palate-pleasing concoctions while colleagues paid to sample the dishes and vote for their favorites. The lunch raised more than $200 for the Central Missouri Humane Society.

Inspired by the results, this year the staff took the same approach to Mizzou’s United Way campaign, upping the competition with innovative ingredients — cashews, pumpkin, coffee — to the delight of chili cook-off organizer Jamie Scheppers.

“I’m a foodie; I liked tasting the chilies,” said Scheppers, operations and project manager for Web Communications. “It gives me new ideas to try the next time I want to cook.”

The winner, senior information specialist Ryan Gavin, took the (paper) crown with a roasted chicken chili, securing a $300 donation for the charity of his choice, United Way partner agency Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Missouri.

Faculty and staff also inspired competition in the community by donating their handiwork to this year’s silent online auction — the first one of its kind to be opened to non-employees. Alongside local business donations, MU employees created (many black and gold) items such as quilts and birdhouses to sell to the highest bidder.

The highest-earning item of the week was a $500 textbook scholarship from University Bookstore for one semester, which went for $450.  The auction generated $8,169 this year, up $2,246 from last year’s total.

Revenue from the auction counted toward the third annual MU/KU student challenge, in which the Tigers triumphed again, raising $17,629 to the Jayhawks’ $10,869.

The Heart of Missouri United Way works with community nonprofit agencies and businesses to focus on four main areas of philanthropy: education, income (financial stability), health and safety net (emergency needs). The umbrella organization partners with 31 agencies — such as the Rainbow House, the Boys and Girls Club, Job Point and the Voluntary Action Center — 27 of which are located in Columbia.

This year’s overall campaign goal is $3.45 million, “the highest goal we’ve ever had for a community-wide campaign,” Rich said. Mizzou’s goal was $690,000, up $40,000 from 2010’s goal. Rich said he was inspired because, despite the university’s hiring and wage freezes, employee contributions have consistently topped themselves from each previous year.

The reasons to give are compelling. According to the United Way:

• Nearly 40 percent of mid-Missouri public school children live in poverty.

• Nearly 200 mid-Missouri students drop out of school each year.

• Nearly 1,500 people are on the waiting list for public housing.

• More than 6,000 people have lost their jobs.

• More than 7,000 of our neighbors go hungry each night.

Though donations are essential, the campaign isn’t all about money. Organizers want to raise awareness about the needs of fellow mid-Missourians, to encourage advocacy and participation, and to inspire volunteers.

“One thing that I really admire is that the university really does live united,” Rich said. “It works hard to engage the community and help make it a better place to live.”

— Megan Cassidy, with reporting by Karen Pojmann, Mizzou Wire

* Mizzou Weekly is published by Publications and Alumni Communication, a department of University Affairs.