Wednesday, August 12, 2009
As another academic year begins, the University of West Georgia is experiencing the benefits and challenges of its steady growth.
With a new coliseum, football stadium and Greek Village for fraternities and sororities opening on campus, the benefits are in plain view.
But challenges, such as raising funds in a difficult economic environment, are also present.
Now, as the university embarks upon a rebranded fund-raising campaign, it is emphasizing to donors, volunteers and the community that it is continuing to excel even as it takes prudent steps to navigate uncertain fiscal terrain.
“The UWG Foundation’s endowment decreased last year, and the university’s state-supported budget took a substantial trim, but the institution has continued to meet the needs of its students and remains poised for solid growth,” said Frank Pritchett, UWG’s associate director of annual giving.
Pritchett said that as the university launches its Annual Fund campaign, it is highlighting the ways in which UWG benefits the local community and the region.
The campaign, which has been known since 1983 as A Day For West Georgia, has evolved into a collection of events that spread the word to a broader audience about UWG’s impact and why support for it is crucial.
“Almost all of the events that made A Day so popular over the years will remain in place,” Pritchett said. “The support that we get from the local community is absolutely critical, and we want to take steps to continue to grow it. But as we move forward, we also will be casting a wider net that extends beyond our local area.”
Pritchett said that A Day began in 1983 as a one-day event to garner support from local businesses and individuals for the institution, but since then has become a two-month campaign that has involved a growing number of volunteers, donors, and university employees.
The Annual Fund campaign will continue that growth by targeting alumni in other parts of the nation and overseas and businesses throughout Georgia and other states.
Tapping new sources is especially important in times of economic hardship, Pritchett said, because it enhances the prospects for success.
For instance, the university will reach out to its younger alumni, who might not think that they have the financial wherewithal to make meaningful gifts, by explaining that giving at any level is helpful and appreciated.
The university will seek to underscore the real-life impact of donations, including by giving students the opportunity to tell how they have benefited.
“It has been difficult going to college while working full-time and taking care of a home and three children,” said Susan Irwin, a UWG nursing major from Snellville. “When my husband lost his job, and shortly afterward faced a life-threatening illness, the scholarship I received was the only reason I was able to continue my education.”
According to the latest data, 72 percent of UWG students qualified for some form of financial aid, but the university was only able to provide Foundation-supported scholarships to approximately 5 percent of those seeking assistance.
Past chairpersons of A Day have given positive feedback about the new direction the Annual Fund campaign is taking, Pritchett said, and excitement is building about how generating more support from new sources can fuel the university’s growth.
“A Day has been a successful effort for us for many years, but it wasn’t always clear to newcomers and people outside the community what exactly A Day was. Now, with the Annual Fund campaign, we’re communicating a clearer message.”
And despite the changes, Pritchett said the work of the volunteers and others involved in the campaign remains its lifeblood.
“We are very grateful to everyone who plays a part in our efforts – especially our volunteers. They have been instrumental in our efforts and will continue to be. Thanks to them, we see a bright future for the Annual Fund.”
For more information on supporting the UWG Annual Fund, call (678) 839-6582.