Fundraiser Counts on Affluent Donors

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In the face of the failing economy, campus officials say that the success of the Campaign for Berkeley, publicly unveiled last week, will depend on the campus's pool of wealthy private donors.

While UC Berkeley will be reaching out to its total base of alumni and donors, officials are counting on gifts from particularly affluent donors to make up most of the $3 billion that the campus hopes to raise by June 30, 2013, said David Blinder, associate vice chancellor for university relations.

Blinder said the campus expects about 15 percent of its donors to contribute about 85 percent of the total funds, based on a fundraising formula.

"It's always the high donors making the differences in the dollars for support," he said.

Blinder added that the decision to proceed with the launch of the campaign's public phase during a shaky economy was based on the success of its private phase.

As of Aug. 31, about $1.3 billion had been raised during the campaign's private phase, which started in July 2005.

About half of the funds raised will go into the campus's endowment reserves, which will support financial aid, graduate services and professorships. Other funds may be put to use immediately, depending on how donors indicated they wanted their donations used, said campus spokesperson Jose Rodriguez.

On Saturday, the day after Chancellor Robert Birgeneau kicked off the campaign's public phase, alumnus Coleman Fung, founder of the software company OpenLink, announced he would donate $15 million to the UC Berkeley College of Engineering. He graduated from the school in 1987.

Fung said one of his reasons for donating was to motivate more people to donate despite the tight times of the current financial crisis.

The Campaign for Berkeley is the campus's third major fundraising effort. Its 1993-2000 campaign raised about $1.44 billion, surpassing the campus's goal of $1.1 billion, Rodriguez said. Its first major campaign from 1985-1990 raised $468 million.

Blinder said he believes that the campaign will endure bumps in the economy due to the support of wealthy donors who are generally insulated from the turbulence of the market.

"Over any campaign you look at, you'll see the economy, you'll see the market has its ups and downs," he said.

But research shows that the rate of donations to schools nationwide is expected to slow this school year.

According to a July survey conducted by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, donations for K-12 schools, colleges and universities for the 2008-09 academic year are predicted to increase by 5.3 percent. For the past two decades, the growth rate of donations to education was an estimated 7.2 percent yearly.

Officials at other UC campuses said they, too, are preparing to deal with a lessened flow of donations.

Jennifer Svihus, associate vice chancellor for development at UC Santa Cruz, said the campus saw about a 25 percent increase in donations last academic year, but expects the situation to change soon.

"We haven't been affected by that yet, and I say yet because ... things in the economy are seemingly getting worse," Svihus said, adding that UC Santa Cruz will be watching the state of the economy as it considers launching its own campaign.

"There's a lot of external forces that will affect philanthropy in the next year and beyond," Svihus said.


Contact Alexandra Wilcox at [email protected]

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