Residing within an urban bubble, students and faculty of CWRU are often isolated from the Greater Cleveland metropolitan area. Locked within the bustling campus atmosphere, it is possible for any individual to forget the prominent need within Cleveland and Ohio. Launched on Sept. 17, the Charity Choice Campaign hopes to bridge the gap between campus and community, granting both students and staff the opportunity to make an impact outside of University Circle.
The Charity Choice Campaign, led this year by provost and executive vice president W.A. “Bud” Baeslack and associate provost for international affairs David Fleshler, provides a chance for each member of CWRU to donate money and time to grateful nonprofit organizations. The co-chairs of the event serve on a rotation for two years. This will be Fleshler’s first year with the event and Baeslack’s second. The initiative began on Case for Community Day, allowing the program to be propelled by an atmosphere of selflessness and civic engagement.
For 2010, co-chairs Baeslack and Fleshler hope to increase campus involvement by more than 10 percent and bypass last year’s donation total of $204,300. In an attempt to reach these goals, the campaign possesses many unique benefits and a sense of ease that sets it apart from other philanthropic options.
Associate provost Fleshler finds that “[t]he second and [most] important role this year is to get as many people as possible to participate.” To reach this end, the campaign is encouraging individual schools within the university to become involved. “The university is a fairly diffuse place, where each of the different schools focus on their own goals,” Fleshler said, “We are encouraging the different schools to raise involvement by hosting their own events.” He goes on to note that email messages will be sent to the campus community throughout the duration of the program.
Establishing the priorities of the year, Fleshler stresses the importance of connecting givers with those who benefit from the generosity. “We wish to connect [donors] with individual stories and the people who are helped because of volunteering and donations,” he explained. “We want to give people a sense of where their money goes. This way, people realize their money is not going to some amorphous institution, but instead it reaches people with real needs,” he added.
A tangible aspect, the “real needs” of individuals are more readily seen than one may imagine. Fleshler notes that “[t]here are people right here at Case that are doing well now, but a few years ago depended on these organizations [for assistance].” It is critical to realize that donating as a campus community not only helps those in need, but it constructs a model of empowerment for individuals who may not have considered donating in the past. “By donating through Charity Choice, one may still assist the 501(c)(3) nonprofit of their choice, but will do it in a way that provides strength in numbers,” Fleshler said.
Individuals wishing to participate in the initiative are able to chose among a staggering 230 member agencies, or they can chose to donate to the 501 (c)(3) nonprofit of their choice. The three large nonprofits connected to the initiative, chosen because of their dependability and efficiency, include Earth Share Ohio, Community Shares, and the United Way of Greater Cleveland. Each of these nonprofits serve as umbrella organizations for a plethora of related programs and agencies.
Unique to this drive, each donor can tailor the program to fit their specific financial situation, for there are three ways to make payments. One may opt to donate through a monthly payroll deduction or through a personal check. Regardless of the vehicle used to donate, there is no established minimum or maximum amount for contributions. Though some nonprofit organizations have necessary administrative fees for processing donations, there are no CWRU administrative fees; thus donors have complete control regarding the destination of their monetary gift.
This will serve as the fourth year of an online donation application for the program; therefore it remains evident that motivating the CWRU community remains a top priority for the program. However, multiple obstacles, especially in regard to the current economic state, are manifesting among university students. “I think the economy will make a lot of people unable to participate,” undergraduate student Douglass Oswald explained. “I know that some students are forced to use their paychecks for food and required expenses, so donating money to charities may not be feasible for many right now,” he added.
While Fleshler realizes the truth behind this statement, he asks that students and faculty examine this viewpoint from a different perspective. “If these are the economic impacts on people that are able to eat every day, imagine the economic impacts that exist at the bottom of the economic ladder,” he stated.
As students and faculty determine their own ability to participate, Charity Choice 2010 is working diligently as an opportunity for CWRU to make a difference outside of the University Circle bubble. The program will run until Dec. 17, 2010 and donations will be accepted online at www.case.edu/charitychoice and through the Charity Choice office in Crawford Hall. Those interested in participating can also sign up at the Benefits Fair on Nov. 10 and Nov. 11 in the Thwing Student Center Ballroom.