As organizers begin to tabulate the results of this year’s Good Neighbors Campaign, it appears they will meet their monetary goal but will fall far short of reaching their participation goal.
The Good Neighbors Campaign entered its 15th year of “helping children live their dreams” with two goals — to raise campaign contributions by $100,000 and to increase employee participation by 8 percent. The aim was to have 50 percent of USC employees contribute to raising $1.2 million.
The campaign, which provides grants for community outreach programs and organizations, officially ended Oct. 31, though donations will continue to trickle in until the end of the year. The preliminary numbers, however, show that while contributions are on track to hit the campaign’s goal, participation has fallen by more than 5 percent compared to last year, according to Campaign Director Carolina Castillo.
Castillo said the campaign considered the economic situation in setting its goals — and tried to keep aspirations reasonable — but ultimately organizers thought it was important to increase their efforts for the sake of the grant recipients who depend on the program for funding.
“We decided we would increase our goal because we felt like the [employees] at USC would step up to the challenge given that the current economic situation is really having an adverse effect on our local communities,” Castillo said.
Castillo said it was important for the campaign to meet its fundraising goal this year because the programs it funds are more in need of grants than ever, given the recent economic rut.
Thomas Sayles, GNC 2009 chair and vice president of government and community relations, said the program always operates with the community programs in mind.
“In tough times it is more important to give,” Sayles said.
The numbers so far miss the mark, but Castillo said by the time final numbers are calculated, the campaign will likely meet its fundraising goal — as of Wednesday, the campaign had reached $1.19 million, just short of its $1.2 million goal.
Participation, however, is low. Involvement had dropped 6 percent as of Wednesday, and though Castillo anticipates the campaign will come close to 40 percent participation, she admitted to being disappointed that it will miss the 50 percent benchmark.
Castillo attributed the drop in part to the economy and the tendency for people to tighten their belts when the economy is in a rut.
“There is a hiring freeze at the university and that wasn’t the case last year at USC,” Castillo said. “There were also no raises across the board, which was not seen last year.”
Though the percentage of faculty members participating dropped, the actual number jumped.
“The employee base grew, but our participation could’ve stayed the same,” Castillo said. “We have 5,100 employees giving this year and last year it was 4,900.”
Another possible reason for the results, Castillo said, was the fact that the university acquired the Norris Cancer Hospital and the University Hospital earlier this year. These two hospitals account for 11 percent of all employees, and Castillo said the campaign got a late start in their fundraising at the hospitals.
Additionally, Castillo said, participation rates may have been abnormally high last year.
Last year, Castillo said, participation rates soared when an anonymous alumnus posed a challenge to the faculty and staff of the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences. The alumnus said if the college raised its participation rates to 50 percent, he would donate $1 million to the Joint Education Project’s endowment.
With the challenge, participation jumped to 57 percent. This year, however, the College only had a 26 percent participation rate.
Even with participation down, the fact that the campaign will make its monetary goal is most important as many community members depend on their grants.
“We could not do it without USC,” said Jay McAdams, co-founder and executive director of the 24th Street Theatre, which receives funds from the campaign. “The campaign understands that a richer community makes it richer for the students.”