Giving Back

December outreach gives faculty and staff an opportunity

December 20, 2013
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While there can be many reasons why faculty and staff members donate to the WPI Annual Fund at the end of year, one in particular stands out for Ajayi Harris, associate director of annual giving.

“By giving to WPI, they can see the impact of their gift right away,” he says.

The December appeal invites faculty and staff members to make contributions―which they may direct to specific areas and recipients―for the betterment of the university in a wide variety of ways.

“Give to financial aid and you help students who need financial aid,” says Harris. “Support student clubs and organizations, you are supporting things on campus. If you’re supporting a new major or research effort, you can go to where that is happening and see it in action.”

Overall, he says, the Annual Fund can provide for everything from new lab equipment to building maintenance to expanding student life to advancing academic programs and beyond. The December outreach targets faculty and staff members because they have “a unique perspective” in that they are able to see firsthand where need exists. There are several options that making giving easy, Harris notes.

“The simplest way is through the website. We accept checks as well, and employees can also contribute through payroll deduction, which offers the benefit of pretax deductions.”

The faculty and staff appeal has been in place for about eight years. He says it grew out of the “organic” contributions that staff and faculty were already making to WPI.

“We decided to make it a more coordinated and strategic effort,” says Harris. “We find that WPI faculty and staff who give are very passionate about what they giveto. Faculty, not surprisingly, fund a lot of their own departments and efforts; staff members, seeing how hard students are working, often give to financial aid.”

The fund has averaged over $100,000 annually for the last few years, he says, with participation rates between 22 percent and 23 percent across campus. Though the year-end deadline for giving is December 31, donations are welcome anytime. Harris stresses that no gift is too small, and no one should be discouraged from participating.

The December outreach targets faculty and staff members because they have “a unique perspective

“We have folks who give a lot, and folks who give $5. There are those who will give small gifts for chemical engineering and to the senior class; they might support the Annual Fund, they might support their own department. Some people break up their contributions that way. Others make a lump sum gift. We welcome all levels of participation.”

He says the office of University Advancement receives positive feedback from faculty and staff members who are not only happy to give, but also appreciate the opportunity to do so.

“I give as a WPI employee because I know that every dollar matters. The Annual Fund helps supplement tuition revenue and keeps increases low,” explains Jon Bartelson, assistant CIO for hosting & support services. “It helps fund financial aid for our students and supports new programs, [which is] especially important as we embark upon the renovation of Alumni Gym.”

Similarly, biology and biotechnology professor Pam Weathers sees giving as a way of expressing gratitude to an employer that directly and indirectly educated her three daughters. “One is a WPI alum and the other two went to college elsewhere,” she says. “Two are also now teachers. Giving to WPI is my way to say thanks and to ‘pay it forward.’”

By Mike D’Onofrio