At a time when Kansas University employees aren't getting pay raises and some are being laid off, the KU Endowment Association is turning to them for donations.
Next week, all KU faculty and staff will receive a letter asking them to contribute to "KU First: Invest in Excellence," the association's $500 million fund-raising drive.
"We recognize it's not the optimum time to be asking people for money on campus," said Tom Beisecker, a communications professor who leads the committee seeking employee donations.
The campaign began in 2000 with university officials seeking large donations from alumni and other friends of the university. John Scarffe, an Endowment Association spokesman, said officials would continue to solicit smaller donations until the campaign ends in 2004.
Scarffe said no monetary goal had been set for employees. Rather, he said, the goal is to get a large number of faculty and staff to participate.
KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said donors often asked whether faculty and staff supported the KU First campaign. He noted that faculty made up 400 of the 1,742 members of the Chancellor's Club which requires a $1,000 donation for people 36 and older or $500 for people 35 and younger.
"The greater percentage of participation we have, the easier it is to show what kind of commitment we have here at the university," he said.
Beisecker said the committee had considered delaying the employee solicitation as recently as last month.
"Regardless of what the short-term situation is, the institution is a very positive place," he said. "We'd like to think people can respond beyond the immediate context."
But Beisecker said the economic situation would likely affect his group's efforts.
"It's challenging on several levels," he said. "The fact nobody got salary increases this year is a big part of it. In part of the (university) community, it's job security. It's a general apprehension about the future."
To counter that, Beisecker said committee members would emphasize that faculty and staff can donate to the project or department of their choice.
"The capital campaign is not asking people just to contribute to general, overall goals," he said. "We're encouraging them to give to their own department, to tailor it to their own goals and needs."
So far, the KU First campaign has raised $337 million, Scarffe said.
The campaign will get exposure Saturday at the KU football game against Southwest Missouri State. For the second year, the Endowment Association has distributed about 19,000 "KU First" T-shirts that will grant students free admission to the game.
At the game, 25 students will be selected randomly to each receive $1,000 scholarships. The money again is provided by Dick and Jeanne Tinberg of Leawood.
Dick Tinberg is the retired owner of Gateway Motors in Junction City.
"It's easily identifiable," Scarffe said of the shirts. "You can see those 'KU First' letters out there. That's what we want to do, no matter what stage of the campaign we're in. We want to increase awareness of KU First."