ROC packs cereal into a United Way bag, held by a volunteer
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This year’s United Way Campaign has already set University records

  • University News
  • Division of Philanthropic & Alumni Engagement

The United Way aids nearly 48 million people annually, and with targeted campaigns like the University of Pittsburgh’s, you likely know a neighbor, colleague or community member who has directly benefited from the organization or an agency it backs. And this year, the impact of that support has increased exponentially.

“Despite challenges, we’ve witnessed a heartening trend,” shared Kelly Gilliam, Pitt's United Way Campaign manager. “The Pitt community’s commitment to gifting has remained steadfast, and we’re now seeing a positive shift with people giving more, akin to our pre-COVID levels.”

Although the 2023-24 campaign doesn’t conclude until April 30, donors have already raised $723,227.06 compared to last year’s total of $701,653.56. This is the third highest total ever raised for the University. This year also yielded $89,670 in retiree donations, the highest amount since Pitt launched its United Way efforts more than 25 years ago.

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“The United Way campaign continues to flourish, thanks to Pitt community members’ generous service and donations,” stated David N. DeJong, senior vice chancellor for Business and Operations and the Pitt United Way campaign chair. “It has been an honor to serve as campaign chair for the past two years. I am energized by everyone’s support and am confident this year’s campaign will have a strong finish, continuing to make life-changing differences in the communities we serve.”

Gilliam attributes the campaign’s success to policy changes that increased the amount of vacation time people can donate and a payroll deduction rollover. With the latter, people who are passionate about a certain organization or nonprofit can “choose to give a donation and the same amount every year. It automatically renews unless they go in and make a change,” Gilliam said.

She also praised the regional campuses, notably Pitt-Bradford for nearly doubling last year’s donations from $18,785 to $31,209. 

“I believe our approach was consistent with previous years,” said Pitt-Bradford’s Vice President of Enrollment Management James Baldwin, who aids with campaign efforts there. He, like Gilliam, credited the significant increase to the University’s new vacation hour policy, which alone brought in over $10,000. 

Faculty and staff were first permitted to donate eight hours to the campaign in 2022. Last year, it increased to 15 hours before jumping to 40 this year. On the Pittsburgh campus, this option enabled a donation of nearly 600 additional hours over the last three years.

Baldwin said these gifts are reflective of Pitt people’s power and desire to enact positive change.

“Our continued growth in giving reflects the generosity, caring and compassion of our faculty, staff and retirees and shows the commitment we collectively have to support our community and region,” said Baldwin. “Pitt-Bradford, Bradford and our surrounding region are intrinsically tied. We know each other and care deeply about each other.”

In addition to donors, an entire team is needed to make each year’s campaign successful. 

“One person can’t possibly think of and know it all, so it’s great to have people help and bring ideas to the table,” said Gilliam, the campaign manager. She estimates about 300 volunteers serve as campaign ambassadors, regional champions, department leaders and members of the steering committee and data acquisition team, all of whom collaborate with the United Way’s internal team to support Pitt’s campaign. On May 14, those individuals will be celebrated with a breakfast in the O’Hara Student Center Ballroom. 

Gilliam added that a strong and visionary leader is necessary to rally the team. Enter Senior Vice Chancellor DeJong, the first campaign chair to serve for two consecutive years. 

“Dave was a lot of fun,” said Gilliam. “He’s competitive but made the campaign fun. Any idea, he was willing to go out and give it a try. He’s very supportive and passionate about making the campaign the best, getting the whole campus involved and showing support as the leader by participating in events, so we’ll miss him.”

Vice Chancellor of Engagement and Community Affairs (ECA) Lina Dostilio will be the next campaign chair. The campaign has already benefitted from partnerships with ECA, which previously included programming for students and activities such as kit packing, where volunteers gather much-needed supplies for a specific community group or home.

“The campaign aligns with Pitt’s pillars to support and strengthen our communities,” said Gilliam, whose personal goal is to help retirees return to campus to mentor and engage with the next generation of volunteers. “[Lina’s] department oversees community engagement, so we’ll see more opportunities to help our community and potentially get more students involved in volunteering.” 

For inquiries regarding Pitt’s United Way Campaign, contact Gilliam at keg93 [at]


— Kara Henderson, photography by Tom Altany

Totals from across Pitt's campuses

  • Pittsburgh: $684,649.06
  • Bradford: $31,728.54
  • Greensburg: $5,661
  • Johnstown: $765
  • Titusville: $3,567.93

Campaign total: $726,371.53