School Spirit

The Senior Gift Campaign has become a way for graduating seniors to begin giving back to Cal.

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David Hamilton had never thought about donating to the campus until he received a phone call this semester encouraging him to contribute to the Senior Gift Campaign.

For more than 10 years, physical contributions - such as benches or courtyards - have been a thing of the past. Instead, seniors today giving to UC Berkeley's class gift contribute to specific funds, departments and groups based on personal preference.

"To give something back to my student group, I decided to contribute around $20 to $25 to the Cal Band," Hamilton said in an email. "I wasn't really expecting to get anything out of my donation, but I ended up getting an invite to a nice senior gift donor event a few weeks later."

The Senior Gift Campaign kicked off on March 9 with the "Countdown to Commencement" event, put on by the Senior Gift Campaign Committee in collaboration with the Californians student group. To recognize the efforts of student donors and encourage more involvement, the campus held a number of similar events this semester, including a banquet reception with Chancellor Robert Birgeneau.

Seniors donors are given buttons recognizing their donations, and those who give $250 or more are eligible to be on an Honor Roll of Donors.

In addition, the New Alumni Challenge - which began last year to encourage new and continuing donors - will provide a one-to-one match of individual donations from the classes of 2006 to 2011 for donations up to $1,000. The effort has been funded for the last two years by $1 million from the UC Berkeley Foundation Board of Trustees.

"There is a lot of motivation in giving back to Cal," said senior Lizz Campos, co-chair of the Senior Gift Campaign Committee. "Because Cal gave you a degree, it's a big deal if you can give back so it can keep chugging along for someone else."

As of this week, 1,500 donors from the class of 2011 have given more than $79,000, well on their way to surpassing the $100,090 raised by 1,750 donors for the class of 2010, according to Zareen Khan, manager of young alumni and student philanthropy with university relations. The deadline for giving to the campaign is June 30.

However, some students are still not motivated to give, especially because of rising tuition and their personal financial situations.

"It ties into the issue of tuition already going up twice for the time I've been here," said senior Jenny Gant, an urban studies major. "From my point of view, I'm paying more for less, and I'm not in a place in life where I would donate."

Still, departments and colleges such as the College of Engineering and Haas School of Business have seen a significant percentage of their graduating classes give to the Senior Gift Campaign.

"We want to build a culture of giving back at Haas," said Betsy Cardis, associate director of class & regional giving at Haas. "All our peer private schools' students learn about the alumni who came before them giving."

With a $500 million cut in state support to the university possibly doubling in the future, giving has become more important for the campus.

"This was the first year in Cal's history that private philanthropy outweighed state funding, and it will probably increase for years to come, seeing the way the state is looking," Khan said.


Contact Anjuli Sastry at [email protected]

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