For more than 10 years, UF has raised $1 million for local charities across Alachua County.
But, the university missed the mark for the first time last year.
UF raised about $980,000, which was a wake-up call for the university, said Karen Thomas, UF’s community relations specialist.
Thomas said nonprofit specialists involved with UF’s Strategic Development Plan found that across the nation, charitable funds were decreasing because of a new mindset in the younger generation.
“Millennials and young employees are not wanting to just give $5 a week from their paycheck,” she said. “They want to have more hands-on involvement in what they're interested in.”
This month, UF launched Gators Volunteer, a website where people from the community can find information on approved charities, Thomas said.
The site connects people with about 50 organizations such as Alachua Habitat for Humanity, Alachua County Humane Society and Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Central Florida.
Each organization in Gators Volunteer has their mission, volunteer opportunities, hours of availability and contact information listed on the website.
Susan Crowley, UF’s assistant vice president of community relations, said volunteers have the comfort of knowing that every organization in the program has been evaluated to ensure they are doing ethical work in the community.
"There are not too many problems that we have in our community that we don't have someone on the campus who has some expertise in that area and who couldn’t bring all their years of study and students and graduate students to bear on that issue," Crowley said.
She said the university may never reach $1 million again, but they can make sure students can connect their passion with something they’re interested in and make a difference.
In the first nine days since the website went live, they have had more than 3,000 page views, Crowley said.
Sherry Houston, the executive director of the Ronald McDonald House in Gainesville, was originally connected with the university through UF Campaign for Charities.
The Ronald McDonald House is a place where families with children who are patients at UF Health Shands Hospital can stay.
"When you volunteer, you share with these families. You hear their stories, and you begin to experience what they experience," Houston said.
Alyssa Morris, a 21-year-old UF nutritional sciences senior, has volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House since March. Previously, she was a volunteer at Shands for two years.
“I felt like this would be something more personal, where you would get to interact with more people, and since it's not a hospital or a doctor's office, you're not so limited in what you can and can't do,” Morris said.
Tammy Aagard, UF’s associate vice president for enrollment management, is also a volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House. She has volunteered for more than a year and comes in every Wednesday night.
“The reason why I volunteer here is because it fills my bucket,” she said. “I enjoy the people here. I enjoy the families, and it just keeps me going throughout the rest of the week.”