La Follette School faculty, staff, and students tripled their 2016 Penny War giving over last year – collecting $607.33 for two student-selected charities. Finishing at -$107.82 ($204.96 collected), faculty and staff won the Penny War, which ran from October 18 until noon November 22.
Master of International Public Affairs (MIPA) students edged out first-year Master of Public Affairs (MPA) students for second place by 35 cents, and second-year MPA students finished last.
The La Follette School Student Association (LSSA) and staff member Marjorie Matthews coordinated the Penny War. Students selected the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which works with refugees, and the National Parks Conservation Association to receive the donations through Partners in Giving, the nationally recognized state employee workplace fundraising campaign in Dane County.
For the friendly competition, pennies counted positively toward each team’s point total, while the value of paper bills and other coins was subtracted. This year’s Penny War featured a new tactic – ice cream. UW–Madison’s Babcock Hall Dairy Store created the special flavor Cherrity to raise awareness of the Partners in Giving campaign, and the La Follette School offered Penny War participants a dish of ice cream for a suggested donation of $2.
“The ice cream made the kickoff party particularly special,” said Kirsten Jacobson, LSSA community service and outreach coordinator. “Students also voted for the organizations receiving the Penny War proceeds, which helped create more community and buy-in.”
Associate Director Hilary Shager even treated students to ice cream after a job-search discussion, with all paper bills added to the three student groups’ collection boxes. Two family members also participated by donating their penny collections to the faculty/staff team, which despite these heroic efforts, spent most of the competition in last place.
By 8:30 a.m. on the final day, less than 50 cents separated the four teams and students gathered at the La Follette house just prior to the competition’s end. However, Professor Tim Smeeding arrived with a handful of $20 bills from various faculty members.
“Tim offered to collect faculty donations, which at first didn’t seem fair to the students,” said Matthews. “However, I realized the learning opportunity for them, especially at the La Follette School, where we teach students about inequality and policy implications.”
Indeed, Smeeding acknowledged the perceived unfairness to the dozen or more students gathered for the final tally.
“Like many issues, Inequality is extremely complex, and this is one very small example of the importance of well-designed and well-managed public policies and programs that can improve people’s quality of life,” said Smeeding, who gave students the opportunity to regain the lead by leaving at 11:55 a.m., with the faculty/staff team ahead by less than $20. “The true winners were the beneficiaries of this fun Penny War that Marjorie and the students ran very, very well.”
La Follette School Director Don Moynihan also gave faculty, staff, and students an added incentive to participate in the Partners in Giving campaign by offering to match contributions up to a certain amount. During the nearly eight-week campaign, the School raised $13,511.94 – exceeding its 2015 total by more than $3,200.
“Both Partners in Giving and the Penny Wars tap into the spirit of public service that motivates our students, staff, and faculty,” said Moynihan. “Even while we are busy with research, exams, and projects, it's a fun reminder of the values that bind us together.”