United Way donations decline

FAMU contributions to the United Way of the Big Bend have dropped this year, in part because of recent payroll incidents and a perception by some employees that the agency has not historically catered to people of color.

Col. Ronald Joe, vice president of university relations and executive director of the FAMU Foundation, said adverse opinions concerning numerous issues have deterred many possible contributors from giving.

“The allegations and the reality of payroll difficulties have left several people who have wanted to make contributions unable to do so,” he said. “Therefore, there is an indication of some sort of wrecked capability to give.”

Joe, who is also chair of FAMU’s United Way campaign drive, said another reason for lack in donations stems from claims that United Way has not been a supporter of individuals and businesses in the Southside community and people of color.

Joe said he and other advocates of gifts for the organization are working hard to educate the public about the continuous efforts United Way makes to improve in providing services for women, people of color and those who are economically disadvantaged.

“United Way has done and is doing significantly better,” Joe said. “And while the past has not been what it should have been, they have certainly made a strong effort to do better in the future, and we have been quite supportive as well.”

Since 2003, FAMU has given to the United Way campaign. Kristen Florence, program assistant for the FAMU Foundation and campus coordinator for the United Way campaign, said FAMU is 57 percent away from reaching its goal.

“This year our goal is $82,500,” Florence said. “Currently, we have raised $52,600, and we will raise at least $53,000 this year.” She said the original goal, set by former FAMU President Fred Gainous, was $75,000.

In 2003, FAMU raised $81,000 and continued each year to exceed the set goal. Florence said since the school exceeded contributions in the past, this year’s goal was raised by $7,500.

Deans of each school and college throughout the University appointed coordinators for the FAMU campaign. Joe said each coordinator has attended training sessions to explain the mission of the United Way and why it is important to contribute to its cause. He said they are also provided with information to take back to their organizations to assist them in asking for donations.

Local community leaders and business owners said the relationship between FAMU and the United Way is critical to the community.

“The FAMU team is so important the people of this area in so many ways,” said Susie Busch-Transou, co-owner of Tri-Eagle Sales, the locally owned and operated Anheuser-Busch distributor in Tallahassee. “(FAMU) involvement with United Way of the Big Bend not only helps to make a difference in the lives of the student body, but also to help build bridges and make connections that benefit those who are less fortunate.”

Transou, who serves as the overall campaign chair of the United Way of the Big Bend, said this years’ theme is “we do dreams.” She said when donors and people in the community work together with United Way, they are able to build dreams in the lives of others.

The Rev. Calvin McFadden, pastor of Community of Faith Church, said donors give to United Way because they know their funds will go directly to agencies in need.

“People feel at ease when they give their money to United Way because it is a law abiding agency that does what it says it will do,” he said. McFadden said the organization supports the people of the community.

McFadden, who also serves as chair of the African American Leadership Outreach Program, said that his program, started by the United Way last year, was organized to distill the myths that United Way was a “for whites only” organization and to educate the black community and agencies about the services that United Way provides.

“Look statistically at people helped by United Way, such as the Tallahassee Boys Choir and Mothers in Crisis,” he said. “We know who these agencies are, but we don’t know if they are certified agencies. United Way gives a large portion of their money to help these and other agencies like them.”

He said more than 40percent of service clients catered to by the United Way are black.

In an effort to raise money for the United Way campaign, FAMU has assisted several fundraising events including a leadership dinner and silent auction, held at the Tallahassee Antique Car Museum and a hot dog social at Howard Hall.

Joe said although contributions are down, with this year’s donations FAMU will have raised $298,000 for United Way over a four-year period.

He hopes the FAMU community will continue to support the United Way.

“I would encourage us not to focus on the fact that numbers are down, but rather the fact that we have made significant efforts to support these causes and we will continue to do so in the future,” he said. “It has just been a rough time for us as a University, but we will overcome these hard times.”