UC aims fundraising efforts at social media

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The latest UC fundraising effort could have the university singing for dollars.

The new program, called the “Promise Platform,” will turn students and young alumni into fundraisers by asking them to use social media to solicit donations from friends and family in exchange for promising to complete a given task. These promises could range from a student not drinking coffee for a week to — as chair Sherry Lansing jokingly suggested — UC President Mark Yudof and Gov. Jerry Brown singing a duet.

The initiative, which relies on the strength of participants’ social networks, follows years of efforts at developing methods of creative fundraising, according to UC Student Regent Jonathan Stein. But the underlying incentives for students and alumni to participate remain uncertain.

“This just sort of points to problems with the university if we have to resort to bartering in this way,” said UC Berkeley junior Mariana Sosa.

The program, set to launch in October, falls under Project You Can, a systemwide initiative launched in 2009 that aims to raise $1 billion for student scholarships by 2014, said Daniel Dooley, UC senior vice president for external relations, at the UC Regents meeting Wednesday.

“A student could promise to dye their hair purple if their network would help to raise $1,000 for student scholarships,” he said. “You create a buzz on social media networks (through) these promises.”

The UC system partnered with the Entertainment Industry Foundation for this effort. Lansing, who also serves as chair of the EIF board, said EIF will help recruit celebrities to encourage the general public to get involved.

“The importance of the Entertainment Industry Foundation is that they will give us a handful of celebrities so we can cut through the clutter and get attention to this,” Lansing said at the meeting.

The EIF will be offering its services pro bono, according to UC spokesperson Dianne Klein. She said the program intends to target donors of all levels within the university as well as interested individuals outside the system.

“It’s a chance for all of us to give a dollar, to give a million dollars,” Lansing said.

In developing the program, the university worked with Stein and representatives from the UC Student Association. The UCSA will encourage students to fundraise once the project launches next fall, according to ASUC External Affairs Vice President Shahryar Abbasi.

“Hopefully, (the university) starts to do these projects more,” Abbasi said. “This is a public institution, and it’s only going to survive if the public helps out.”

The regents will discuss the project again in September to offer a final update before the project is launched.

“I think it’s a very good idea,” said UC Berkeley junior Nelson Rozo. “If there’s a collective enough effort, it could be cool.”

Libby Rainey covers higher education. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @rainey_l.