In a new book, MIT’s Ethan Zuckerman asserts that we need to overcome the Internet’s sorting tendencies and create tools to make ourselves ‘digital cosmopolitans.’
The annual United Way campaign at MIT kicks off this week, and organizers hope to raise $320,000 from the MIT community for the 210 non-profit agencies assisted by United Way of Massachusetts Bay (UWMB).
The MIT effort is just part of the UWMB's overall 1993 target of $45,359,170. That money aids more than 1.7 million people through agencies in 81 cities and towns as far south as Norwell, west to Marlborough and north to Boxford. The current MIT fund-raising drive runs until November 30.
"The economic conditions won't allow us to have just a good campaign. We don't want a great campaign. We want a sensational campaign. The children out there demand no less," UWMB president and CEO Marian Heard exhorted an orientation meeting of chief solicitors at MIT last week.
Each department, laboratory and center has an appointed chief solicitor who will be distributing information and pledge cards to employees during the campaign. The MIT employee campaign manager is Elizabeth Mulcahy, administrator in the Office of Special Community Services. Chairman of the 1993 campaign is Gene M. Brown, professor of biology; co-chair is Evelyn L. Perez, assistant dean for personnel administration in the School of Science.
A new feature of this year's campaign is an option whereby donors may charge their contributions to their MasterCard or Visa credit cards. They may have any amount of money deducted from their paychecks for up to 12 pay periods or make a one-time payment.
Contributors also have a variety of choices as to how their money will be spent. They may specify Community Care, meaning that United Way distributes the gift throughout its member agencies (donors may also specify an agency that they do not want their contribution to go to). Under the Targeted Care option, donors may specify one or more of eight target areas encompassing a number of agencies: Success by Six (a new early-intervention program for children up to age six), youth ages seven to 18, the elderly, the hungry and homeless, HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, protecting women and children from abuse, improving physical and mental health, and building safer stronger neighborhoods.
A third option is to specify that a contribution go directly to a single UWMB agency, a United Way agency not under the UWMB umbrella, or a qualified non-United Way health and human services organization.
United Way agencies range from well-known organizations such as the American Red Cross, the Massachusetts division of the American Cancer Society and Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts down to smaller agencies that provide adult day-care, counseling, substance abuse treatment, affordable housing, rape crisis assistance, shelter for women and the homeless, and services for the retarded and disabled, to name a few.
In 1990, MIT accounted for 2,422 donations representing 24 percent of employees. There were 2,341 donors in 1991 (23 percent of employees), and 1,597 contributors (15 percent) last year. Although the totals were down last year, the 1992 average gift of $184.36 was the highest for the three-year period. In welcoming remarks to the chief solicitors, President Charles Vest said he hoped for a 25 percent employee participation rate this year.
One reason for the drop-off last year may have been adverse publicity surrounding the national United Way leadership, but Heard assured those at MIT that those concerns are a thing of the past. "We withheld our money [in dues to the national organization] until we were sure it was all cleaned up" and a new president was installed, she said.
On the local level, dozens of volunteers work year-round to review agencies' budgets, programs and licenses to make sure that they qualify for United Way assistance and that they are spending money appropriately. Money is also distributed among local agencies, so donations stay within the community, she emphasized.
"It's proper to think of the United Way as the community's mutual fund, allowing knowledgeable volunteers and staff to invest donor dollars in a variety of agencies that have a significant impact in changing and in saving people's lives," President Vest said.
A version of this article appeared in the October 27, 1993 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 11).