Big Give campus fundraising event surpasses expectations

Michael Drummond/Senior Staff

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On Thursday, the campus wrapped up the first of what is planned to be an annual fundraising drive, the Big Give, with organizers hoping to make the event a tradition coinciding with the week of the Big Game against Stanford University.
The 24-hour event brought in more than $5.3 million from 7,336 donations, according to Lishelle Blakemore, executive director of the campus annual giving and regional programs.

“We’re all pretty surprised with how successful the campaign was,” said Blakemore. “We didn’t have any idea that we’d get this number of donors from literally all over the world.”

Donations were given directly to more than 30 participating campus programs and schools. Throughout the day, prizes were awarded to the organizations that had met a fundraising milestone, such as greatest participation or biggest amount of donations.

Jennifer Hernandez, director of annual giving for the Cal Alumni Association, had initially projected raising about $10,000 over the course of the event but was surprised to find that when the final donations were tallied, her association had raised more than $50,000 from more than 220 participants.

“College of Engineering was in the lead, like, 90 percent of the day, and then at the end of the day, Boalt (UC Berkeley School of Law) bolted to the top — it was like watching a good game,” Hernandez said.

The two leading schools used social media to reach out to prospective donors. Posts to the law school’s Facebook page throughout the day encouraged donors to contribute by offering to multiply their donation with matching funds. Engineering ended with a total of $1,104,702 raised compared to the law school’s $1,197,336.

“There was a million-dollar donor to the law school at the last minute,” Blakemore said. “That was how they took the lead, to the surprise of everyone.”

The gift was given to benefit the school’s financial aid program through an initiative called the Access for All Challenge, according to Blakemore.

Smaller prizes were also awarded for other achievements, such as “Most International Gifts” won by the College of Engineering and “Most Student Donors” won by the Haas School of Business. The money for award prizes was donated prior to the event by members of the UC Berkeley Foundation Board of Trustees.

A potential problem the organizers faced was when a local media outlet was unable to run ads for the event. At the last minute, local radio station KGO produced a radio spot, which they ran throughout the day. The event also drew the ire of some students, as it unintentionally coincided with the announcement of the UC tuition increase.

“The campus did an amazing and excellent job of bringing us together for a great cause, and it literally paid off,” Hernandez said. “It was really a strong first campaign, and we’re looking forward to next year.”


Contact Isaac Smith at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @IsaacGSmith.