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UC to increase, improve fundraising efforts to maintain donations as source of revenue

By Flavia Casas

Nov. 24, 2010 1:34 a.m.

The UCLA Student Call Center is looking for donations, and you might be next on its calling list.

Established to carry out fundraising efforts, the call center asks UCLA students, alumni and parents for monetary donations, said Thuy-Dien Bui, the center’s program manager. But its goals stretch farther than just getting people to pull out their wallets.

Calling staffers, who are all UCLA students, aim to build rapport with the person they’re speaking to, Bui said.

“Rapport is key in securing a gift,” she said. “It’s about having someone feel comfortable over the phone. We ask them about their experience at UCLA.”

In a single phone call, employees will ask for donations four times before marking down non-donors, each time requesting a smaller amount, said Arianna Bornhoft, third-year sociology student and a call center worker. But not everyone is asked to contribute the same amount.

The center’s database tells callers how much to ask for from each person. This data comes from the university’s Development Committee, a team of 250 professionals that is devoted to raising funds, according to the committee’s website.

As a result of current financial woes, the call center and the Development Committee seek to increase donations to the university by searching for methods of attracting new donors and getting previous ones to donate again.

Fundraising efforts have not fallen short. UCLA consistently ranks among the nation’s leading fundraising universities, coming in as the No. 1 public institution and No. 9 among all universities last year. Stanford University was the No.1 fundraising institution, raising $640.11 million while UCLA raised $351.69 million.

The committee focuses on generating all types of contributions.

Gifts may include endowed professorships­ ““ donations granted over time to a faculty member and directed toward a specific field of study ““ as well as “restricted” donations to a specific college, program, department or fund, including student scholarship funds, said Rhea Turteltaub, vice chancellor of external affairs.

“Scholarship funds are always a part of the fundraising pallet,” Turteltaub said. “We want to have the resources available for today’s and tomorrow’s students.”

But not all gifts to the university are restricted to a specific purpose. Contributions, like those made through the call center, may be allocated to unrestricted funds in two ways. They can either be used freely within a specific area or can be directed to the Chancellor’s Fund of Greatest Needs, where they are used at the chancellor’s discretion, Turtletaub said.

Although less than 5 percent of all gifts are not designated, donations to the Chancellor’s Fund have contributed to the restoration of Night Powell, an increase in scholarship aid and the installation of childcare programs to help retain faculty, Turtelaub said.

Recent restricted donations have contributed to the founding of a new neuroscience institute, the Staglin IMHRO Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, and research into mental disorders, among other things.

Increasing and improving fundraising efforts that will continue work like Tyrone Cannon’s, clinical psychology professor and director of the Staglin Center, is more complex than simply reaching out to more people, Turteltaub said. The Development Committee plans to obtain more donations by refining its abilities to pinpoint and target prime prospects.

“We develop and cultivate relationship-building, engendering relationships between donors and the university,” Turteltaub said. “We want them to be enduring, because once people start giving they’ll continue to give.”

The call center has attempted to increase the number of donations the center obtains by recommending talking points to its employees and giving them incentives, such as bonuses and pizza parties, as well as recommending talking points.

“We have to tell them (students, parents, alumni) how much impact their support has on the school,” Bornhoft. “There are more than 360,000 alumni. If everyone gave just $25, it would add up to millions of dollars in support.”

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