Big Give raises more than $4 million for UC Berkeley organizations, schools

Diagram showing distribution of Big Give fundraising
Jenn Zeng/Senior Staff

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In a period of 24 hours, UC Berkeley alumni, parents, students and individuals from all over the world raised more than $4 million in contributions as part of Big Give 2019, an annual online fundraising event now in its fifth year, to support schools and campus programs in their initiatives and efforts.

From as little as $10 to large sums of philanthropic donations, the event, which was hosted Wednesday to Thursday, was able to solicit 14,101 gifts. The event also included categorized awards, enabling winners to receive extra donations and bragging rights for soliciting the largest donations.

The campus incentivized the drive through several awards, including a $10,000 prize called “Raising the Bar” for organizations that were most successful at surpassing their donations from the 2018 cycle. Other challenges, such as the “Big Countdown,” encouraged social media outreach.

The UC Botanical Garden and the Arts and Design Initiative were two of many organizations able to raise their donations bar from 2018, receiving substantially more donations than last year. The UC Botanical Garden saw an increase from 73 to 189 gifts, going toward support for their various conservation efforts such as the restoration of rare plants and the upkeep of its volunteer and educational programs.

Paul Licht, interim director of the UC Botanical Garden, said the organization was competing against top professional schools on campus with a large number of fund donations but mentioned that they focused on soliciting a large number of gifts. He attributed the Botanical Garden’s success to its push in its media outreach efforts.

“(We were) especially pleased to see that so many people were interested in supporting our conservation, which I think is an important message,” Licht said. “It’s important to know that people care.”

The Arts and Design Initiative was also recognized for its increase in number of gifts. Spokesperson Sarah Fullerton said social media and videos were part of its campaign strategy to engage donors.

“Each year, we focused on a different campaign,” Fullerton said. “This year, we focused on the arts passport, which provides free and subsidized tickets to UC Berkeley students (for museums and performances).”

In order to help fund the building of its ninth-generation solar-powered car, CalSol Program Director Seth Frank said the organization was able to build upon alumni parent networks and work on social media. CalSol came in second after Helix as the student organization with the most gifts won.

The International House, or I-House, was also able to build support through residents and peer-to-peer fundraising, according to Joy Iwasa, associate director of philanthropy for I-House. She said not being afraid of reaching out to gain input from a wide array of people, such as residents, brought a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of ideas.

Campus junior Lai Thung said that though she did not participate in the Big Give, her friends did.

“I think (the Big Give) is important,” Thung said. “It’s a way for students to fundraise, and the more funding the clubs have, they’ll be better ran by whoever is in charge.”

Contact Sarah Chung at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sarahchungdc.