Cal State Playing Catch-Up in Fund-Raising Game

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Right before the jazz band started and the audience gave two standing ovations to a CSUN alumna for her $1.5-million donation, Yale architect Robert A.M. Stern injected a strong dose of reality into the fund-raising event.

The February contribution kicked off a yearlong $10-million fund-raising campaign at Cal State Northridge, remarkably its first. But Stern, a brash New Yorker, was less than impressed.

"It doesn't seem enough," he told the assembly. "At Yale, $10 million is one gift, and not necessarily a naming opportunity at that."

At a time when a record number of university endowments are in the billions, it is easy to write off Cal State University's efforts as chump change. In 1998, Northridge raised $8.6 million, a figure Yale dwarfed with its $223-million haul.

But to be fair--and many say Stern was not--Yale is 300 years old and educates some of the world's wealthiest students.

Northridge is 41 years old and serves many recent immigrants and first-generation students, most of whom supplement student loans with part-time jobs.

Says CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed: "We have to tell people about who we graduate and what our student body overcame and what they've contributed back into their communities. We're the economic engine of this state."

That is how CSU fund-raisers are selling their institutions to wealthy individuals and corporations. We're not sexy, they say, but you can't live without us. So far, it is working--the 23-campus system has raised $1.4 billion since 1990.

Administrators acknowledge they have a long way to go. For example, UCLA raised $1.5 billion in seven years. Columbia University raised twice that amount in 10 years.

But CSU is leading the pack among large public master's universities--meat-and-potatoes schools that emphasize teaching and access rather than research and prestige.

No one really knows why Cal State waited so long to fine-tune its fund-raising. Some cite tradition. Some mistakenly believed it was illegal for CSU to raise private dollars.

"The unspoken public policy was to treat the CSU as if it was a welfare state-funded agency," Reed said. "All that's changed."

Recession of '90s Spurred Fund-Raising

As state revenues fell during the recession of the early 1990s, costs associated with corrections, K-12 schools and public health care eclipsed higher education funding. The budgets of the state's two university systems were slashed. Academic programs languished, tuition skyrocketed and professors were laid off.

The University of California raised its tuition by 24% in 1992. Meanwhile, the California State University system raised tuition 40% but couldn't provide the kind of generous retirement packages for teachers offered by UC.

"At the time, most of our campuses had virtually no endowment," said former Cal State Chancellor Barry Munitz. "The UC got through that crisis in a way the CSU couldn't."

Cal State has been putting its statewide fund-raising team together since 1994. It has had mixed success so far. San Diego State, with more research programs than any other CSU campus, raised $33 million in 1998. Other success stories include the system's flagship campus, Cal State Long Beach, which raised $36 million and the system's biggest sports school, Fresno State, which raised $21 million.

Despite their prime locations, CSU's three Los Angeles campuses--Cal State L.A., Dominguez Hills and Northridge--have started off slowly, raising a total of $30 million among them.

Some experts say fierce competition with fund-raising powerhouses USC and UCLA has hampered local CSU campuses. Others say Los Angeles-based CSUs have fewer affluent students than suburban campuses such as San Jose State and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. But most say the Los Angeles campuses got into the game late.

And after years of unparalleled economic growth, some CSU administrators are concerned they may have missed the biggest gravy train in history.

"It would have been nice had [CSU] started fund-raising 20 years ago," said Bruce W. Flessner, a Minneapolis-based fund-raising consultant. "The '90s was a great time to raise money."

But even now, say fund-raisers, phenomenal opportunities await CSU. Deep-pocketed foundations, once founded only in the Northeast, have grown stronger in California. Organizations such as the Palo Alto-based Hewlett Packard Foundation and the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund in San Francisco have taken leadership roles in university giving. Corporations have also started incentive plans for employees who wish to give to universities. Others have contributed cash, stock and equipment.

Campuses Lose Track of Alumni

Alumni outreach is the most difficult task for many campuses. About 40% of all university contributions come from Cal State graduates, parents and other individual donors. Administrators would like that figure to increase, but only a few Cal State schools have strong relationships with their alumni.

"That's a huge infrastructure piece for places that have not traditionally tracked their graduates," said Patricia Jackson, a vice president at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Most big fund-raising schools have databases with tens of thousands of names and addresses.

So-called prospect researchers mine that data, including information on the Web and in public records, to find likely contributors.

"It was a tough, tough assignment for our folks to rebuild their files in a mobile state like California," said Douglas X. Patino, CSU vice chancellor of University Advancement.

Amy Walling, director of prospect research for San Diego State, couldn't think of a single "prospect" she has brought into the fold.

"We're a little behind," she said.

And until a Times reporter informed them, Cal State Northridge administrators were unaware that Wendi Deng, wife of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, graduated from the school in 1993.

"Really?" said Bill Outhouse, Northridge's chief fund-raiser, scribbling a note to himself. "That's great news."

More Americans donate more money to higher education than to any other cause except religion. American colleges and universities raised a record $18 billion last year, funding new campus buildings, better salaries for talented faculty members, equipment, student scholarships and endowment increases.

Public universities may be relatively new to the game, but they are rapidly catching up. Private dollars account for about 20% of UC Berkeley's annual budget, about average for large public research institutions.

CSU's Reed has charged his campuses with generating 10% of their state allocations and says he may soon raise that standard.

"The state of California can afford a really good CSU," Reed said, "but excellence is achieved with private fund-raising."

Marketing Aside, It's About Relationships

In this period of unprecedented wealth, university development officers sound a lot like advertising executives, employing such terms as "synergy," "branding" and "niche marketing." Many campuses have adopted retail models to raise money, complete with telemarketing departments, frequent mailers to potential donors and a tailor's approach to fitting individuals' specific philanthropic tastes.

"A lot of people have quickly built new Internet fortunes," said Dennis Sloane, UCLA's vice chancellor for development. "These are untraditional donors, many in their 30s or 40s, who could give gifts in excess of $10 million.

CSU has decentralized its fund-raising operations, building teams in each academic department of each university to encourage campuses to rely on their specific strengths.

Campus presidents are held accountable for year-end totals.

Fresno State's award-winning fund-raising team has capitalized on its nationally ranked football and basketball teams.

"Athletics is the front door of fund-raising," said Peter N. Smits, Fresno's vice president for university advancement.

Fresno fund-raisers often organize tailgate parties at away games in Los Angeles or San Diego, cities where many of their alumni are concentrated.

"The challenge is keeping them connected with the university," Smits said.

San Jose State and Cal State Chico benefit from their close proximity to Silicon Valley, as does Cal Poly San Luis Obispo by virtue of graduating many high-tech workers.

The three Los Angeles CSUs are still struggling to find their niche, administrators say, but Northridge may be on to something. Over the last two years, the Valley's only four-year university has organized alumni gatherings at some of Los Angeles' best-known cultural centers, including a private Van Gogh showing at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, a night at the Getty Center and, last month, a cocktail reception at Peterson Automotive Museum.

But after all the marketing schemes, tailgate parties and swanky dinner engagements, fund-raising often comes down to one thing: relationships.

Pasadena-based fund-raising consultant Shari Thorell met Linda Brown when their husbands worked at Price Waterhouse in 1965. Abbott Brown is now managing director of international telecommunications start-up Global Crossing Ltd.

"I hadn't seen Linda for a number of years after Abbott left the firm," Thorell said.

The women renewed their friendship five years ago and have since worked together on philanthropic projects.

In 1999, Brown and Thorell lunched together to discuss a contribution Brown wanted to make to USC. Once they finished that topic, Thorell brought up another.

"I was so impressed with CSUN's aquatic therapy program that I had to tell her about it," Thorell said, referring to the school's rehabilitation center for the physically disabled.

At the time, Cal State Northridge was the furthest thing from Brown's mind. But then a surprising thing happened.

"Linda told me she was an alum," Thorell said. In February, Brown gave the therapy program $1.5 million.

"I went to CSUN in 1976 and majored in history," Brown said. "I grew up in the Valley. My sister studied kinesiology. I took my SATs there as a kid."

Attitude of Alumni Worries Officials

CSU officials find it worrisome that even after the Browns had contributed millions to Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, USC and Claremont College, the couple never thought about giving to her alma mater until Thorell suggested it.

Abbott Brown understands their concern.

"They've got lots of successful graduates, but they have not gotten them to come back and identify with the school and raise the school's profile," he said. "We're hopeful that this contribution will encourage other alumni to do their part."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Alumni Touched for Donations

Nationally, contributions to higher education have risen from $9.8 billion in 1990 to $18.4 billion in 1998. Only in recent years has the California State University system begun outside fund-raising.

CSU funds raised systemwide

IN MILLIONS

'93-'94: $150

'94-'95: $137

'95-'96: $148

'96-'97: $173

'97-'98: $237

'98-'99: $232

*

Master's Institutions

These institutions offer a full range of baccalaureate and master's degree programs.

Voluntary funds raised in '98, IN MILLIONS

SUNY at Potsdam (NY): $1.4

Alumni donations IN MILLIONS: $0.4

Total donations per student: $345

Alumni of record: 26,946

Alumni donors: 4,698

*

Voluntary funds raised in '98, IN MILLIONS

CSU Dominguez Hills: $2.8

Alumni donations IN MILLIONS: $0.1

Total donations per student: $229

Alumni of record: 37,156

Alumni donors: 3,283

*

Voluntary funds raised in '98, IN MILLIONS

Western Illinois Univ.: $3.1

Alumni donations IN MILLIONS: $1.2

Total donations per student: $257

Alumni of record: 9,633

Alumni donors: 9,633

*

Voluntary funds raised in '98, IN MILLIONS

Univ. of Texas San Antonio: $3.9

Alumni donations IN MILLIONS: $.07

Total donations per student: $224

Alumni of record: 29,806

Alumni donors: 1,060

*

Voluntary funds raised in '98, IN MILLIONS

CSU Northridge: $8.6

Alumni donations IN MILLIONS: $0.4

Total donations per student: $337

Alumni of record: 157,580

Alumni donors: 3,121

*

Voluntary funds raised in '98, IN MILLIONS

CSU Los Angeles: $18.5

Alumni donations IN MILLIONS: $0.2

Total donations per student: $968

Alumni of record: 74,756

Alumni donors: 3,238

*

Voluntary funds raised in '98, IN MILLIONS

CSU Fresno: $20.8

Alumni donations IN MILLIONS: $4.7

Total donations per student: $1,146

Alumni of record: 79,435

Alumni donors: 5,155

*

Voluntary funds raised in '98, IN MILLIONS

Univ. of Nevada at Las Vegas: $28.1

Alumni donations IN MILLIONS: $0.5

Total donations per student: $1,385

Alumni of record: 30,672

Alumni donors: 1,624

*

Voluntary funds raised in '98, IN MILLIONS

CUNY Hunter College (NY): $35.0

Alumni donations IN MILLIONS: $3.7

Total donations per student: $1,776

Alumni of record: 102,000

Alumni donors: 75,00

*

Voluntary funds raised in '98, IN MILLIONS

CSU Long Beach: $36.0

Alumni donations IN MILLIONS: $2.2

Total donations per student: $1,295

Alumni of record: 139,843

Alumni donors: 12,186

*

Voluntary funds raised in '98, IN MILLIONS

CSU (systemwide): $237.4

Alumni donations IN MILLIONS: $23.4

Total donations per student: $700

Alumni of record: 1,477,798

Alumni donors: 79,629

*

Doctoral and Research Institutions

These institutions offer a full range of baccalaureate and graduate programs through doctorate degrees with an emphasis on research.

Voluntary funds raised in '98, IN MILLIONS

San Diego State Univ.: $29.8

Alumni donations IN MILLIONS: $1.4

Total donations per student: $975

Alumni of record: 144,460

Alumni donors: 7,878

*

Voluntary funds raised in '98, IN MILLIONS

UC San Francisco: $122.4

Alumni donations IN MILLIONS: $3.3

Total donations per student: $34,762

Alumni of record: 24,477

Alumni donors: 5,750

*

Voluntary funds raised in '98, IN MILLIONS

Univ. of Florida: $122.8

Alumni donations IN MILLIONS: $31.6

Total donations per student: $2,920

Alumni of record: 214,283

Alumni donors: 23,675

*

Voluntary funds raised in '98, IN MILLIONS

USC: $175.6

Alumni donations IN MILLIONS: $49.3

Total donations per student: $6,196

Alumni of record: 168,321

Alumni donors: 34,288

*

Voluntary funds raised in '98, IN MILLIONS

Univ. of Michigan: $179.5

Alumni donations IN MILLIONS: $76.1

Total donations per student: $3,448

Alumni of record: 412,699

Alumni donors: 60,287

*

Voluntary funds raised in '98, IN MILLIONS

UC Berkeley: $185.6

Alumni donations IN MILLIONS: $68.0

Total donations per student: $6,127

Alumni of record: 298,242

Alumni donors: 32,624

*

Voluntary funds raised in '98, IN MILLIONS

Northwestern Univ.: $196.3

Alumni donations IN MILLIONS: $107.2

Total donations per student: $14,565

Alumni of record: 154,983

Alumni donors: 31,370

*

Voluntary funds raised in '98, IN MILLIONS

UCLA: $197.1

Alumni donations IN MILLIONS: $24.8

Total donations per student: $5,545

Alumni of record: 232,696

Alumni donors: 30,014

*

Voluntary funds raised in '98, IN MILLIONS

Yale University: $223.0

Alumni donations IN MILLIONS: $97.8

Total donations per student: $20,387

Alumni of record: 117,345

Alumni donors: 43,499

*

Voluntary funds raised in '98, IN MILLIONS

Stanford University: $312.6

Alumni donations IN MILLIONS: $117.6

Total donations per student: $20,308

Alumni of record: 140,210

Alumni donors: 39,847

*

Voluntary funds raised in '98, IN MILLIONS

Harvard University: $462.8

Alumni donations IN MILLIONS: $207.9

Total donations per student: $24,828

Alumni of record: 252,954

Alumni donors: 66,504

*

Voluntary funds raised in '98, IN MILLIONS

UC (systemwide): $704.3

Alumni donations IN MILLIONS: $107.3

Total donations per student: $4,160

Alumni of record: 987,684

Alumni donors: 107,393

*

Source: California State University and Council for Aid to Education

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