In the 2018-19 fiscal year, Cal State Fullerton earned over $28 million in donations. For the 2019-20 fiscal year, the university aims to bring in $30 million, said Greg Saks, vice president for University Advancement and the executive director for the Philanthropic Foundation.
University Advancement’s Philanthropic Foundation serves as the organization responsible for the investment and management of philanthropic gifts donated to CSUF.
”When we think about philanthropy and the donations that come in, really what they’re doing is helping the university go from great to really great. They’re providing that margin of excellence that’s helping the campus take it to the next level,” Saks said.
Philanthropic investments gifted to CSUF have increased since the implementation of the university’s first ever strategic plan in 2013, which ran until the end of the 2018 fiscal year.
The year prior to the university’s proactive outreach efforts, the university earned an average around $8.5 million in philanthropic donations per year. Following the implementation of the strategic plan, donations nearly doubled to $16.1 million.
“That kind of growth will continue. We’re doing a better job reaching out to our alumni, friends and community. I think there’s an expectation that we have a lot more potential from a fundraising perspective that we haven’t fully met,” Saks said.
The strategic plans implemented a greater comprehensive campaign goal the university has established to reach $175 million in philanthropic investments. Currently, the university has achieved 62% of that goal, Saks said.
Philanthropic investments to the university allows for the implementation of programs and other initiatives such as scholarships, student and faculty resources, as well as study abroad opportunities for students.
In many circumstances, donations are allocated based on the donor’s choice. Over 99% of the donations are designated, which indicates the donor has determined where the money will go, Saks said.
When donors don’t have a specific program in mind, Saks and his team assists and helps guide them to what they might want to gear their monetary gifts towards.
“There’s a donor I was talking with the other day that cares deeply about food insecurity and helping students deal with that,” Saks said. “I was able to connect them to Tuffy’s Basic Needs, and they were able to then understand the needs of the university and make a donation to support that work.”
Saks stresses the importance of alumni engagement in regards towards philanthropic efforts. Last year, CSUF alumni contributed 54% of the total gift earnings.
He directed to the student-alumni relationships and the values that he shared with Titans when considering the growth and engagement among the demographic.
He also mentioned the impact students hold with potential investors. Although there are people on campus who help reach that goal for the university, it is the students and the stories told that help drive where investments are needed.
“What they need are students to truly tell the story because at the end of the day, (donors) don’t want to talk to me. They want to spend time with the students,” Saks said. “They make an impact by meeting and interacting and engaging our students because they understand that they are going to be the ones that are going to be leading this county.”
The Philanthropic Foundation’s new strategic plan that was implemented in 2018 runs until 2023, the foundation aims to exceed the standard set by the previous plan. As the university continues to see growth in attendance, the need for student support will be greater, especially with tuition increases always at risk. It states that it motivates efforts with the recently implemented plan to maximize revenue opportunities and philanthropic investment in the institution.
”There’s more and more demands on our students. If our alumni and other friends of the institution understood those demands, I think there’s a great likelihood they’d pay it forward,” Saks said.