A few weeks ago, during a Campus Conversation, I talked about how fundraising is something we all play a part in. So I’m glad to have the chance to elaborate on how fundraising works here.
As vice chancellor for University Development and Alumni Relations, I am the head of fundraising for UC Berkeley. For all of us here, the period between now and midnight on December 31st is our “busy season.” I know that as we transition to a more diverse revenue model that depends more on fundraising dollars, many of you are increasingly interested in the work that we do.
First, let me talk a little bit about the individuals, foundations and corporations that like to support UC Berkeley and try to explain what I think motivates them.
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Giving is so personal that it is hard to say there’s any one motivation for our donors to give to Berkeley, but certainly donors are drawn to the university’s vision, to its leadership and to the idea of having a positive impact on California’s future. Donors want to make a difference. Our donors are also drawn to our combination of academic excellence and commitment to accessibility.
Many of our donors also care deeply about social justice. In the last few years, as our national conversation has focused acutely on immigration, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in both the number of donors and the size of gifts going toward our Undocumented Student Program, which helps students — many of them the first in their families to attend college — settle into and succeed at UC Berkeley.
We’ve also seen much interest from donors in helping our students meet their basic needs through contributions to programs like the Berkeley Food Pantry, which helps hungry students put meals on the table.
And when it comes to athletics, we find that our athletics donors also give money to our academic programs. In fact, the larger their lifetime donations to athletic programs, the higher the likelihood that they also support academic programs. As someone who used to raise money in places like Texas, I can tell you that this trend is not always the case at other schools.
So now that you understand our donors a little better, what are some things I hope you understand about how philanthropy works on campus?
- Fundraising is a team sport: Every interaction on campus, whether it is with faculty, students or staff, leaves an impression on our donors. This is good! You’re all doing amazing things! Donors want to meet you! They’re here to support our academics and research, not me and my colleagues in our development offices.
- Giving to charity is voluntary: There is no obligation to give to Berkeley, even if someone is a proud Cal degree holder. It is our job to make a compelling case for alumni, friends and parents to choose Berkeley for their philanthropic investments.
- Donors get to choose how to direct their gifts: I have heard it said that donors give with both their heads and their hearts. Unrestricted gifts to the general fund can be used for Chancellor Carol Christ’s priorities, but many gifts are earmarked for a certain program. That being said, we will always guard Berkeley’s academic independence: Our donors never get to direct research outcomes or control campus units.
- It is important to thank our donors: This is true for our office and for students, faculty and staff who receive support. A good rule of thumb is to thank donors seven different times in seven different ways.
- It is equally important to be accountable: Our donors want to know that we put their money to work right away and they want to see the impact of their investment. This, I think is as important as soliciting the gift in the first place.
Fundraising is such a collaborative endeavor. Our fundraising teams succeed in raising gifts when our campus partners work closely with us to make the case for giving to Berkeley. It is truly a partnership. So while we’re in this busy season of giving, thank you all for being our partners and making UC Berkeley such a compelling place for philanthropic investment.