University of California Enters the World of Crowdfunding with “Promise for Education” Campaign

Social media-based program will provide scholarship funds to UC students from California

RIVERSIDE, Calif.  —  UC Riverside alumnus Matthew Moser promises to get a UCR tattoo. Staff member Alex Cortez promises to run around the campus in a kilt. And Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox promises to host a pancake breakfast for students at the Highlander Union Building.

All to support accessible higher education at the University of California.

These promises, and dozens more like them from alumni, students, faculty, staff, fans and friends of the University of California, will soon be appearing on a Facebook wall or Twitter feed near you as part of the new UC-sponsored crowdfunding campaign, Promise for Education.

The program, which is the UC system’s first foray into crowd-sourced fundraising, runs from September 18 through October 31 and encourages everyone with a connection to the UC to solicit support from their personal social networks to help raise scholarship funds for UC students from California who have demonstrated a financial need.

“We’ve established this program to ensure UC’s doors continue to remain open to the next generation’s leaders and to underscore the role we all play in helping young people achieve their aspirations and in advancing California’s culture of innovation and civic engagement,” said Daniel M. Dooley, UC systemwide senior vice president for external relations, in a press release.

To participate, individuals select an amount that they are trying to raise, then share a promise of what they are willing to do in exchange for support from their friends, family and coworkers via their social media accounts. Anyone may make a promise or a pledge to support and participants can earmark their funds to a specific campus or to the general campaign fund.

Promise for Education already has garnered the participation of such celebrities and notables as Gov. Jerry Brown, actors Jamie Foxx, David Spade, Wilmer Valderrama, Gabrielle Union, and Sasha Alexander, filmmaker Catherine Hardwicke, basketball player Matt Barnes, rapper and spoken word poet Watsky; Mike Love, lead singer of the iconic California band the Beach Boys; and members of the UC Board of Regents. Public service announcements will highlight promises and encourage participation.

Lily Barger, associate director of the UCR Fund and the UCR contact person for the Promise for Education program, has promised to give up caffeine for two months. She said that crowdfunding via social media will help the university reach out to some of its newest alumni.

“Although crowdfunding has been around for quite a while, it has been challenging for the university to develop a cohesive way to harness its power,” Barger said. “The development of the Promise platform allows us to leverage our constituents’ social media networks to reach a wider audience for the appeal, raising funds for scholarships, building awareness of the need for philanthropy within the UC system, and increasing the alumni participation rate.”

The promises run the gamut from silly to serious, whimsical to meaningful. For example, Robert Wolfer, the president of the UCR Staff Assembly and director of Information Technology in the Graduate School of Education, has promised to wear a full suit of medieval armor to the Staff Assembly fall meeting. But while the pledge to wear the armor is strictly for fun, Wolfer is very serious about his personal goal of raising $5,000 for scholarships.

“As a UC Riverside student, I benefited from financial aid and this is my opportunity to give back to other UCR students that want to enhance their lives through education,” he said.  “As a staff member with over 20 years of service, I am invested in the mission of this institution and have had the opportunity to meet many different students over the years who are working towards a better life.  This cause is another way that I can support UC Riverside students.”

Promise for Education was created in partnership with noise, a creative agency focused on engaging 18- to 34-year-olds. Numerous sponsors are supporting Promise for Education, including Facebook, Bank of America, Spotify and muzik, the creators of the SmartHeadPhone.

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