Private donations to CSU campuses increased over 2011

Melissa Simon

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Private donations to all 23 CSU campuses increased by 30 percent over the last year, according to Stephanie Thara, CSU spokeswoman.

“Our donors — including alumni, parents, faculty, staff, friends of the university, corporations, foundations and other organizations — see the need to invest in higher education and want to support the CSU’s effort in building opportunity for the future,” Thara said.

The overall increase was due in large part to a few major gifts, or large donations, to some CSU campuses. Vance Peterson, vice president for University Advancement at CSUN, said the most notable was the $42 million gift that Cal Poly Pomona received from the Kellogg Family Foundation.

Unlike Cal Poly Pomona, CSUN actually experienced a drop in their private donations last year, according to Peterson.

“Last fiscal year, CSUN received $10.7 million from about 6,700 individuals,” Peterson said. “In contrast, in the 1990s, we had an annual average of only $6 million. So even though donations are down, there is still an increase from the previous decade.”

At each campus, donations are acquired in different ways. At CSUN, potential donors are contacted through the CSUN Fund, which is a call center staffed by students.

“At the CSUN Fund, students make calls six days a week asking for donations,” Peterson said. “These donations tend to be between $50 and $5,000. The development staff asks for the larger donations that start at $1,000 and go up.”

Of the $10.7 million received last year, the CSUN Fund was responsible for bringing in about $3 million, Peterson said. The continuing pattern that has stayed true over the last few years, is that 90 percent of the donations are major gifts, while the last 10 percent are smaller gifts, according to Peterson.

Peterson explains there are differences when reaching out to individuals as opposed to corporations and foundations.

“With foundations, you have to understand what they want and try to match it,” he said. “On the other hand, with individuals you have to build a relationship with them and understand their priorities and interests. Once you know their priorities, you can ask for donations accordingly.”

Donations are used in a variety of ways at each of the individual campuses within the CSU system, Thara said.

“Gifts support scholarships, academic enrichment, applied research, faculty support, library resources, athletics, public service programs and facility improvements, among others,” Thara said.

Peterson said the amount of donations changes from year-to-year, but the staff at the CSUN Fund is always reaching out to alumni and corporations for help.

“I feel like the alumni, their friends and family all read the newspapers and they understand that the CSUs are getting defunded,” Peterson said. “They understand that we need help meeting the educational needs of our students.”

Thara agrees with Peterson about the donations showing interest in the futures of students.

“Our donors have enabled the CSU to have tremendous success in the most challenging of economic times,” Thara said. “Their commitment exemplifies the belief that their investment will help develop the future leaders of California.”

Currently, Peterson said CSUN has 117 prospective proposals for major gifts that total more than $15 million. Despite bringing in less last year, he is hopeful that this year will follow the upward trend and donations will continue to increase.

“The increase is great news for the future,” he said. “We need the partnership of alumni who not only care about what the university can contribute but also about the students and their futures.”