With state funding unable to meet the growing financial needs of Cal State Fullerton, fundraising efforts and subsequent philanthropic donations to the university have greatly increased.
“While philanthropy will never fully make up what comes from the state, it is another revenue source that is really exceptionally worthwhile,” said Vice President of CSUF University Advancement Greg Saks.
From 2012 to 2016, CSUF received a 202 percent increase in donations, partially due to the efforts of the University Advancement Development department.
Five years ago, the department made a shift to focus more on the personal interests of potential donors.
“It’s about connecting what’s interesting to our donors to what they want to have an impact on,” said executive director of Central Development for University Advancement Todd Fransden.
The development team communicates with alumni and friends of the university by email, mailings, phone calls and in-person meetings. They let potential donors know what is happening in their specific areas of interest to see how their funds would be put to use.
“The number one thing that donors want, and this is something that we’re always wanting to follow up with them on, is to be stewarded in the sense of what happened with their gift,” Fransden said.
These contacts often result in gifts that contribute to scholarships, academic divisions, special speakers, sports teams and other programs.
Focusing on donor interests has proven to be a more effective way to fundraise. In 2012, CSUF received around $7 million in donations. In 2016, that number grew to over $22 million.
The Titan Fund exists for unrestricted financial gifts, but in 2016 only .64 percent of donations fell into that category. The remaining donations were given by donors for specific purposes.
“At the end of the day, the donor calls the shots,” Saks said.
CSUF chemistry professor Scott Hewitt has made numerous donations to the university during his 27 years as a faculty member. He said his donations are just about giving back to the school he’s spent so much time as a part of.
“I’m really invested in seeing that things work well here. I give more money here than I actually do to my alma mater,” Hewitt said.
During his time at CSUF, Hewitt has donated to areas pertaining to his own interests and work including: The chemistry department where he currently works; the library, where he served as the interim university librarian and because he’s a long-distance runner himself, track and field.
Hewitt also fronted the money for a universitywide contest in which students could win cash prizes for writing sustainability project proposals, with the winners announced at the CSUF Sustainability Symposium. The first place prize was $250 and the runner-up prize was $150.
“I don’t think there’s any place on campus that has enough money at this point,” Hewitt said.
Hewitt believes that the general public is unaware of the financial need faced by the university.
“That is a consistent theme that I think all members of our campus community need to make sure people understand. We are state assisted and not fully state supported,” Saks said.
While donations do contribute to budget relief, Saks said they are “really accentuating the student experience” more than anything.
Every year University Advancement sets up financial goals for it’s different units, Saks said. The units consist of development teams in the various colleges and other departments like athletics and student affairs.
“Development team members are really motivated. The great thing about being on campus in a higher education environment is that you get to see students every day,” Frandsen said.
Philanthropy as revenue is especially valuable to the university because there’s no restriction.
“There’s no one out there saying, you can only raise this amount of money,” Saks said.
Development also works closely with Associated Students, Inc. to make sure donations can go through the CSUF Philanthropic Fund.
This fund ensures that eligible donors receive the full tax deduction for their gift, Frandsen said.
Most donations come from the approximately 285,000 CSUF alumni. Community members, family, faculty and staff also make considerable contributions.
“The Titan family of donors gives everywhere from $5 to a million dollars or more. It’s that participation that we really cherish and value because those small gifts really add up to big things,” Frandsen said.
Those who donate see it as an investment in the future.
“I think education is the most important investment that we make. That’s the future of our country and the future of our state,” Hewitt said.