UI begins campaign to promote philanthropy


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Aiming to compete with recent attempts by Big Ten and peer institutions, a number of University of Iowa officials are hoping the launch of a new campaign will motivate faculty and staff members to spread greater philanthropic efforts on campus.

We Are Phil — a play on the word philanthropy — is a campaign to promote awareness throughout campus about philanthropy to strengthen the participation of UI faculty and staff to give a gift of support to a UI department of their choice.

“We Are Phil is a way to ask the faculty and staff to think about what’s meaningful to them,” said Jen Knights of the UI Foundation — the organization launching the campaign.  “Anything you are passionate about in life, there is probably someone here at the university already working on it.”

Knights said increasing the presence of UI staff giving back to one of the hundreds of entities could potentially help outside donors realize how passionate the UI is about its research creating more support.   

Jerry Schnoor, a UI professor of civil and environmental engineering, said the goal of the new campaign is to create awareness that philanthropy and support can help provide the UI with needed updates of facilities, new buildings, and will help promote research programs throughout the UI and Iowa City area.  

“Sometimes, the state cannot support the university as much as it hopes, but it is great to have Phil as a part of the entities to help fund the University of Iowa,” Schnoor said. 

UI neuroscience Professor Matthew Howard said other members of the UI Foundation will participate in meetings and luncheons with faculty members all week to show them how they can get involved and give back to the UI.  

“In my view, we as faculty and staff owe the university more than just about any other group,” said Howard.  “It is a privilege to work in such a great environment and it is such a special place to be able to pursue our work activities and support our families, it just makes so much sense for the staff to give back to the institution.” 

If people understand how philanthropy benefits the UI and hear about the benefits on a consistent basis, Howard said, everyone will want to chip in to support it.

One student in particular has witnessed the effect of philanthropic power firsthand by speaking with numerous UI alumni about their experiences.

Aly Olson, a member of the Student Philanthropy Group, said right now is critical because of the numerous projects and construction on campus that people can give to — including a replacement for Hancher Auditorium and a new Children’s Hospital — which will be around for generations. 

“Everything that happens at the university is heavily dependent on philanthropy because so much private support affects what happens here on campus,” Olson said. 

Due to members of staff being gone these next few weeks, the UI Library department decided to start the campaign on Oct. 15.  Dorothy Persson, the head of the UI Library department for the campaign, said that as a librarian, she is able to interact with students on a daily basis.  

“I have seen a lot of benefits with philanthropy at the UI,” Persson said.  “I think it lifts everybody’s spirits and gives staff an opportunity to show their commitment and the love of their work and the institution.” 

When comparing the UI with other colleges and universities, Knights said the faculty and staff participation in aiding philanthropy is around 13 percent and other colleges such as Ohio State is at 40 percent.  Throughout the past year, she said, she has seen an increase of employee involvement in many other college campuses and hopes this campaign will launch awareness within Iowa City.  

Knights said her goal by the end of the campaign is to increase the number of faculty members involved with philanthropy, not the amount donated.  She said she hopes that private support from the UI will benefit higher education for students. 

“Being a part of Phil is more important part of the mix at the university,” Knights said.  “This will help make giving back part of the fabric and culture of our campus.”

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