Each year, John Shirley makes a gift to The Cortland Fund to support an existing scholarship to develop future leaders.
“Right now I’m giving to the Vice President for Student Affairs Merit Scholarship,” said Shirley, the College’s Career Services director. “I know that for me, I like to give money that supports scholarships because I know that it will be going directly to students.”
He contributes to this particular endowment fund through payroll deduction and also writes checks to support specific College fundraising initiatives that pique his interest as he hears about them.
Shirley and 25-30 other college employees will speak directly with their co-workers in coming weeks as they attempt to broaden the pool of donors to include every College employee.
“I feel very strongly that it’s very important for faculty and staff to get behind the students here,” Shirley said. “For many of them to stay enrolled at campus and complete their degrees, they need financial support. And a larger endowment is going to allow more students to participate in some special activities: study abroad or internships or things like that.”
The increased number of volunteers is just one factor fueling this year’s annual Faculty-Staff Campaign, said Jennifer Janes, director of The Cortland Fund.
“It’s different from what we’ve done in the past,” Janes said. “We will be recruiting a Team of Captains who will be mainly responsible for promoting the campaign among colleagues.”
Donors also will be urged to restrict their pledges to any of their interest areas, such as a scholarship, equipment purchase, organization, program or department.
“We have always encouraged unrestricted gifts,” she said.
Another new twist on this year’s faculty-staff campaign is a significant matching gift program that promises to greatly enhance the impact of employee generosity.
“As an incentive we are matching any new gifts from people who aren’t giving and we’re matching the gift of anyone who is currently giving but would like to increase their gift by Dec. 31,” Janes said. “So if someone is giving $2 a pay period now and would like to increase that to $3, we will actually match the whole three dollars times 26 pay periods. It’s just a little incentive and hopefully people will be excited by it.”
“I’ve learned about a new endowment that will be created in fieldwork studies scholarship,” said Shirley. Anthony R. Moon Jr. ’86, a member of the Foundation Board of Directors, and his family established the namesake Anthony R. Moon Jr. ’86 Internship and Fieldwork Study Scholarship, which with additional donations by others can more quickly reach the total necessary to become active.
“So I’m going to actually increase my donation this fall to direct some money toward this scholarship, which I’m obviously very interested in,” said Shirley, who oversees the College’s student internship program.
“The campus is sort of, ‘Putting its money where its mouth is,’” Shirley said. “By having the matching fund, they are trying to entice people to give a little bit more. It’s a very smart strategy, a great thing to do, and certainly will help our students.”
The emphasis this year also is on encouraging more employees to give to The Cortland Fund, especially for the first time, Janes said. Last year, only 13.2 percent of the College’s employees made annual gifts, a figure that slightly lags most of SUNY Cortland’s sister institutions.
“Our goal this year is to reach 20 percent,” Janes noted.
“A lot of people don’t know that when we apply for grants from other foundations and corporations that they are also taking a look at what our faculty and staff participation rates are,” Janes explained. “They feel that if we’re not giving at home, then there is something wrong. Why would they want to support us if our own people don’t support us?”
For a change, the volunteer faculty and staff Team Captains will actually hand out the annual solicitation letters and a brochure, materials that previously were mailed, Janes noted.
“It’s much more difficult for somebody to say ‘no’ if his or her co-worker is participating and encouraging support,” Shirley said. “It’s easy to just discard a letter. But if somebody comes up to you and explains the value of giving, my guess is that you are much more likely to participate.
“It doesn’t really have to be a lot of money, individually. You don’t necessarily have to give thousands of dollars to the campaign. But if you start out small, within your budget, you won’t even miss it.”
“Payroll deduction is one of the fastest, easiest and most convenient ways to make a gift,” Janes said. “Employees are encouraged to sign up for payroll deduction and make giving to SUNY Cortland effortless.”
It’s true that unrestricted gifts — donations with no strings attached — in the past have enabled the Cortland College Foundation to send annual fund monies where they are needed to support the College’s institutional priorities, Janes explained.
“But we conducted two focus groups in the spring and it was loud and clear to us that people would give if we encouraged them to restrict,” Janes said. “We’ve always allowed restricted gifts, we’ve just never gone really out and promoted it as we will for this campaign. So if faculty want to give to their department or if staff have something that’s important to them, we hope they will let us know when they make their gift.”
“A biology professor, for example, might be much more willing to give a gift if it will help a biology student,” Shirley commented. “Someone who was a former athlete might give back to a fund supporting athletes. I understand why having a restricted gift creates more of a planning concern but if you can generate more money among the faculty that’s restricted, that’s still a good thing.
“I think once you start, even if it’s only a few dollars a week, over time people tend to give more as their salaries increase.
“So the big thing is to just get people to start participating.
“Times are difficult. The economy is tough now, and people are concerned about their finances, and rightfully so. But giving a few dollars a week to support students would not be a big burden for most faculty and staff, I think. Even if you give a small amount of money, in aggregate, we can really do something good for our students.”
More information about the faculty-staff campaign will appear in future Bulletin editions.