Parent Giving

Case study


UC’s peer private institutions have a long history of attracting
significant private support, especially from alumni and parents
of students. UC’s challenge is to educate alumni, friends, and
the general public of the growing need for private support. An
ongoing concern is that many believe the State continues to
provide a constant base level of support as was provided in an
earlier era when gifts were described as providing the “margin
of excellence.” State support has dropped dramatically over
the last two decades, making gift support more important than
ever to the University. It no longer provides simply the margin
of excellence; it is essential to ongoing operations of this
world‐class institution.


The goal is to expand the base of UC supporters to include
parents. Because they have a unique perspective of the value
of a UC education, parents are often eager to support the
University financially and through advocacy efforts. The Office
of the President (UCOP) and the campuses have worked
together on a number of programs aimed at increasing
philanthropic support. Several years ago, the area of parent
giving was identified as high‐potential, though an
infrastructure would need to be put in place in order to be
effective. In Fiscal Year 2007‐2008, the Alumni and Parent
Incentive program was initiated, recognizing that the
cultivation of parents as donors may play a role in developing
current students to become the donors of the future.


There was a dramatic jump in the first year of the program – as
systemwide parent giving rose to $10.7 million from $3.6
million the previous year. This increase was occurring across
all of our campuses: Berkeley reported $2.3 million in 2008
and $3.4 million in 2010; Davis had parent giving increase from
$698,000 to $915,000 over this period; Santa Barbara grew
parent support from $198,000 to $2.8 million, etc. A number
of our campuses have established Parent Volunteer Boards.
For example, at Berkeley there is an 80‐person volunteer
board; the co‐chairs of the Parent Board interact with the UC
Berkeley Foundation. Gifts from parents also tend to be more
unrestricted or flexible than gifts from other donor groups.
When gifts are targeted, donors may more directly influence
the student experience, as was the case with parents who
made a gift to Berkeley to keep the library open extended
hours during finals. 7 Perhaps even more important than
dollars raised, parent programs have been engaged a large
number of parents and families. For example: at Berkeley, over 5,000 families contributed to the Cal Parents Fund during
the most recent fiscal year; at UCLA, over 3,000 attended the
most recent Parents Weekend.


Encouraging parent giving requires adopting a culture of
philanthropy. This takes time, especially when an institution
has only recently emphasized engagement with parents and
alumni as a legitimate educational interest of the institution.
More recently, the largest impediment has been economic
instability. Families facing economic uncertainties/challenges
may not be as receptive to providing philanthropic support. In
addition, campuses are challenged to continue to provide (let
alone increase) the level of resources and interaction that are
provided to parents and families, including everything from
monthly newsletters to Parents Weekends. To the extent
possible, information that engages parents is provided via
specific campus websites and other cost‐efficient means.

Initial investment

UCOP is working to support campus efforts, including a
program whereby each year, $300,000 from UCOP is matched
at the campus level by $600,000 for alumni/parent programs.

Fiscal results, current and anticipated

Parent giving has grown by several million dollars since Alumni
and Parent Incentive program was launched in 2007.

Current action and next steps

UCOP and the campuses are seeking to sustain support of
campus development programs in order to build campus
capabilities. In addition, efforts will be made to enhance
communication among the campuses about the most effective
programs and approaches in development and alumni and
parent giving.

Concluding statement

UC has raised a total in excess of $1 billion each year for a
decade. The campuses are poised to take this to a higher level
as the economy recovers to support donor confidence.