While the official United Way campaign period ended on October 27, the University of Alberta is still looking to raise more than $360,000 before the end of the year to reach its $750,000 goal.

Each fall term the U of A participates in the Capital Region United Way Campaign which fundraises for over 50 charitable organizations in the greater Edmonton region, all of which are aimed at alleviating poverty. The United Way is a non-profit agency that measures the performance of these local charities and coordinates their fundraising efforts.

All proceeds from the campaign will support local charities in Edmonton, including boys’ and girls’ clubs, sexual assault centres, district food banks, and adult literacy programs.

“The United Way coordinates agencies to provide complementary resources,” said Lesley Cormack, Dean of Arts and co-chair of the campaign. “We’re really trying to look at the root causes of poverty and how can we ameliorate those to help people break that cycle.”

The U of A organizes an official two-week campaign period each October to match the promotional efforts of other organizations in Edmonton, but the official donation period doesn’t end until the end of the calendar year.

Donations of $120 or more will be matched by an anonymous donor at the U of A, and in celebration of Canada 150, the Edmonton Community Foundation has also pledged to match any donations of $1,200 or more, up to a maximum of $10,000.

“We have a lot of infrastructure in place to make donations easy, we have a website for online transfers and faculty and staff can set up payroll deductions,” Cormack said. “But what I think is really important is that face-to-face asking of people, it’s all about making it personal.”

This year, the campaign committee set up the “selfie plan,” where donors are encouraged to submit a selfie to the website. This is not only to give the campaign a human face, but also to complement this year’s campaign slogan, “It looks like me,” Cormack said.

“It’s meant to express that there are people like me who need the resources, and there are people like me who can give to make those resources possible,” Cormack explained. “We shouldn’t help people because we think they’ll help us back, but because as a community, we’re all in this together.”

While many students are unable to donate, Cormack said they hope to get more students involved in other ways. She suggests volunteering for any of the United Way-funded organizations or participating in one of the upcoming fundraising activities on campus.  

“We still have the charity event that business students are hosting in November, and the Christmas tree sale run by forestry students in December,” Cormack said. “We also have a micro-giving website to help students set up their own mini-campaigns that support the United Way. We want to make student involvement a bigger part of the campaign next year.”

While the U of A is still half-way from reaching its goal, the campaign committee remains optimistic.

“It won’t be until January when we find out whether we’ve met our goal but we think it will happen,” Cormack said. “We’re even hoping to move our goal to a million dollars for next year.”

For Cormack, the spirit of giving is at the heart of the university. She emphasizes that many of the services provided by the United Way ultimately come back to benefit our own students and staff.

“Poverty is something that the whole U of A community cares about. We have students on campus that are only here because of the services provided through the United Way,” Cormack said. “At some point in our lives we will all need help, and the United Way feels like one way where we are all in it together.”

Image courtesy of supplied
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