LAWRENCE — A normal school year brings students, faculty and staff back to campus — and the annual United Way campus campaign, with signs, letters, bake sales, auctions, meetings, volunteers and money raised for a good cause.
With much of the Lawrence campus still working remotely in fall 2020, getting information about the campaign to the KU community was a challenge.
“In a year when the United Way was doing more to aid the community with pandemic management and recovery, we had lost one of our largest avenues to fundraising because we did not have a visible presence on campus,” said Melissa Rhodes, United Way campaign coordinator and administrative assistant with the Office of the Chancellor.
She reached out to department volunteers who had staffed the campaign to get ideas for how to conduct a virtual campaign. In the span of three months, two campuswide emails and a letter directly from the United Way of Douglas County were sent. KU Endowment held an internal fundraiser at its offices, and the shared service centers held several contests remotely.
“I did not want to take any focus off the mission of KU and the incredible work that was being done to persevere in the face of the pandemic, but I still had to try,” Rhodes said.
By the end of the fall semester, KU employees had donated more than $116,720.
“I normally try to check my emotions at work, but there were tears that day,” Rhodes said. “I was simply overwhelmed by the generosity of KU employees.”
Plans are in the works for the campaign to come back this fall, including efforts to expand fundraising events to more departments and to build excitement not only for staff and faculty, but for students as well.
“I, for one, am ready to attend every event I can find after staying home for so long,” Rhodes said. “I hope I am not the only one. Our people are our greatest resource. United, we can do great things in Douglas County.”
Jayhawks looking to get involved over the summer can find opportunities to donate and volunteer at unitedway.ku.edu.