- Associated Press - Sunday, November 9, 2014

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) - When God speaks, Birdie Holloway listens.

And while reading the 23rd chapter of Psalms, the University of Southern Mississippi custodian said she was instructed “to do something prosperous for somebody.”

She did. The Hattiesburg resident joined the University of Southern Mississippi Foundation and started donating to the general scholarship fund.

“I decided that someone else may need a chance for a better opportunity,” said Holloway, an eight-year employee who works in the Trent Lott Center. “I wasn’t going to college, but I felt if I could help a student in need, it would be pleasing to the Lord.”

That was nearly two years ago, and Holloway is still giving. In fact, she plans to increase her donations in 2015.

She is among the more than 970 employees 40 percent of USM’s 2,400 faculty and staff who are giving $183,524 to the university for Fiscal Year 2014 through donations to the foundation.

Since the USM Foundation started the initiative, employee giving has steadily increased.

“We started the foundation giving campaign in 2011, and during that first drive only about 10 percent of employees participated,” said Megan Burkes, manager of annual giving and special projects for the foundation.

But things changed. In FY 2012, 32 percent of the faculty and staff donated $154,159. And in FY 2013, 36 percent of employees donated $213,043. The foundation did not track the amount raised during the FY 2011 campaign.

“During 2013, this higher dollar amount can be attributed to tornado relief and campus beautification/restoration efforts,” Burkes said.

Of the 973 donors to the 2014 Campaign for Southern Miss (employee-giving initiative), approximately 75 percent of the donors are staff members and 25 percent are faculty, she said.

“These numbers might be a little skewed by the fact that many administrators are classified as staff while they actually have a dual role as administrator and faculty member,” Burkes said. “There is also a much greater population of staff members on campus than faculty members.”

The donor can gift the tax-deductible donation to a number of funds, varying from scholarships to mandates to meet the needs of a specific department or school, said Shannon Fleming, the foundation’s executive director.

He said there is no minimum donation. The goal is all about participation.

“If you reach 30 percent (employee participation), that is considered successful,” said Fleming, who added donors outside USM are impressed because faculty/staff giving is so high

“Employee giving is a great barometer. It shows others that the faculty and staff care about the university.”

That seems to hold true. Holloway is a member of the USM physical plant staff of which all 167 employees donated to the foundation.

FY 2014 has been a banner year for the foundation’s fundraising efforts with $15.5 million raised in gifts and pledges. Along with employees’ giving and other gifts, the Luckyday Foundation donated $6.9 million to the foundation. The money provided 75 incoming freshmen with $5,000-per-year scholarships, which are renewable for up to four years.

“Southern Miss has been able to shape a life-changing program that is truly unique in all of higher education,” said Larry Sparkman, director of Southern Miss’ Luckyday Citizenship Scholars Program, in a press release.

Since 2001, the Luckyday Foundation has donated $27 million to USM, including $4 million for construction of the residency complex Century Park South.

Overall, the USM Foundation’s fundraising is up from $8.5 million collected in FY 2013. Southern Miss collected $20.3 million in FY 2012, $5 million in FY 2011, and $11.6 million in FY 2010.

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By the numbers

Fiscal year amounts raised

2014: $15.5 million

2013: $8.5 million

2012: $20.3 million

2011: $5 million

2010: $11.6 million

Source: University of Southern Mississippi Foundation

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USM raised $15.5 million in private gifts for Fiscal Year 2014, ending June 30. It’s the second-highest single-year total raised by the university in its history. Here are the last five years of fundraising totals.

2014: $15.5 million

2013: $8.5 million

2012: $20.3 million

2011: $5 million

2010: $11.6 million

Source: University of Southern Mississippi Foundation

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Online:

USM Foundation, http://www .usmfoundation.com

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Information from: The Hattiesburg American, http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com

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