Communities Key to Crowdfund Success

Shepherd records data as sheepmowers graze campus turf
The UC Davis Sheepmowers Grazing Project and seven other Crowdfund UC Davis projects surpassed their fundraising goals in the February campaign. Here, in May 2021, undergraduate researcher and shepherd Hunter Ottman records data as the flock tends the turf between Arboretum Drive and Old Davis Road, northeast of the Hyatt Place hotel. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Quick Summary

  • 28 teams — biggest cohort ever — raised $93,594 in February drive
  • Teams use emails, social media and a matching grant todraw interest
  • Landscape architect discovers the secret to success: sheepmowers!

Crowdfund UC Davis’ most recent campaign was also its most ambitious, with 28 teams of students, faculty and staff participating in the February drive, the largest cohort in the fundraising program’s three-year history. Collectively, they raised $93,594 for their projects.


A number of them blew past their fundraising goals well before the end of the monthlong campaign. Many of the successful projects focused on the long-term benefits of addressing today’s most pressing needs.

For example, Promote Excellence in STEM Teacher Education set out to address a shortage of teachers in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math — by raising money for scholarships to be given to aspiring teachers, while Hands on the Land raised money for student trips to restore UC Davis’ McLaughlin natural reserve through experiential learning.

Money raised for Cal Aggie Camp’s 61st Anniversary Celebration will provide a free, two-week residential camp for local foster youth, and Engineers Without Borders, a student-led, nonprofit organization, will provide potable water and address other necessities abroad.

Targeted outreach

Crowdfund UC Davis projects appreciate support from every corner of campus but attributed much of their success to reaching out to people within their own communities.

The UC Davis Latinx and Faculty Association, or LSFA, joined Crowdfund UC Davis to increase the reach and impact of the association’s scholarships, which enable Latinx staff to participate in valuable professional development opportunities. Along with using its existing email lists to provide weekly crowdfund updates and reminders, LSFA also announced a matching grant challenge that would extend the impact of smaller donations. These strategies led to great success: Nearly a week before the February crowdfund campaign ended, LSFA had already raised more than doubled its original goal of $750.

The African and African American Alumni Association (5A) Scholarship group used similar strategies to achieve its goal. A combination of personalized emails and social media outreach was especially key to exceeding the group’s $5,000 goal early. The $5,293 raised will provide crucial support for scholarships as well as valuable networking and community-building activities.

Unique strategy

Another successful Crowdfund UC Davis group used a more unique marketing strategy: sheep.

Haven Kiers, an assistant professor of landscape architecture, began the UC Davis Sheepmowers Grazing Project as a way to see if university sheep could graze campus lawns and maintain its landscape as well as or better than traditional methods. Since its beginning in May 2021, the project had already grown a fan base. In fact, at one sheepmowers event, a visitor suggested that Kiers look into Crowdfund UC Davis.

Now that her project has exceeded its fundraising goal by more than 66 percent, Kiers is glad that she did. The $8,325 her group raised will support the equipment, student shepherds and community events necessary to sustain the sheepmowers project.

“I joke that I’ve never had such a positive response to any of my other research projects,” Kiers said. “Apparently I just needed the right accessory to promote my work — sheep!”

Clear communication

The Association for Women Geoscientists is yet another group that surpassed both its initial and “stretch” goals. With hopes to build a lending library of field clothes and camping equipment for students in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, the UC davis chapter of the association prioritized reaching out to its existing networks via email while also broadening outreach via social media. The organizers ensured that their communications clearly explained how a donor’s support would benefit students.

“We were really straightforward with explaining how donations will directly benefit the hands-on learning experiences of students within our program,” said Elaine Young, a founding member of the Association for Women Geologists’ UC Davis chapter and co-leader of its crowdfund campaign. “We explained that one donation now will be used to purchase gear that can support many students for many years to come.”


Crowdfund UC Davis is held twice a year, in February and October. The application period for the October 2022 session will open March 29.

The Annual and Special Gifts Program, in cooperation with Advancement Services, Office of Development and Alumni Relations, reviews applications and provides the Crowdfund UC Davis platform, guidance and some publicity — but it’s up to project teams to fuel the marketing and networking that lead to success.


Media Resources

Chelsea Clouser is a communications and external relations specialist for the Annual and Special Gifts Program within the Office of Development and Alumni Relations. She can be reached by email or phone, 530-752-2661.  

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