Sunday, July 21

UC system seeks further alumni donations

Correction: The original version of this article contained several errors. Programs such as athletics, bookstores and cafeterias, are self funded. A quote from Geoff O’Neill was misattributed.

Nancy Korb graduated from UCLA more than 28 years ago, but she still regularly spends time with her former roommate from UCLA.

Korb said she received much more than the degree that secured her current career as a mechanical engineer during her college years. She also met her husband during that time, and developed a group of lifelong friends.

Korb is now one of the many alumni who invest financially in UCLA. The university is second-highest in the amount it receives in alumni donations among the University of California campuses, said Dianne Klein, spokeswoman for the UC Office of the President.

In addition, donations to UCLA increased last year, said Geoff O’Neill, assistant vice president for institutional advancement at the UC Office of the President.

But the same cannot be said for the rest of the UC system.

The system-wide alumni giving rate currently stands at 7.4 percent, and donation levels have been slowly declining since 2002, O’Neill said.

The figures simply show the lack of emphasis on alumni giving to the UC system, O’Neill said.

“Simply put, at the University of California, this has never been the highest priority,” he said. “UC has deployed more of its fund-raising resources in areas that tend to provide greater economic returns.”

The University receives the majority of its funding from research grants, tuition and fees and restricted funds for programs such as athletics, bookstores and cafeterias, which are self funded, Klein said. Alumni outreach has been more of a goal for individual campuses than for the system as a whole, she added.

At UCLA, Chancellor Gene Block’s vision to increase alumni awareness as a potential source of funds has brought a steady rise in donations from this group in recent years, said Phil Hampton, UCLA spokesman.

Through events that bring together students, faculty and alumni and efforts to maintain communication with former students, UCLA development staff and the UCLA Alumni Association have made alumni outreach a campus priority, Hampton said.

“Cultivating gifts is not something that happens overnight, and in order to do that, people need to feel like they’re connected to the institution,” he said.

The system-wide office, however, does not plan to actively recruit donations in the future, O’Neill said. Raising funds through alumni outreach may require more resources than it would reap, he added.

Because of the shift in the UC’s financial situation between generations of former and current students, alumni may not understand the pressing need for their contributions now, Klein said.

“It was much cheaper when the alumni went to school, and their perception is that it only cost a few thousand dollars,” she said. “It’s not front and center that (the budget situation has) changed so dramatically.”

Klein, also an alumna of the UC, said increased knowledge of UC’s financial situation, coupled with the understanding of the importance of investing in education, may increase the effectiveness of alumni outreach.

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