Meet the Goal-Busters at Crowdfund UC Davis

People wearing orange shirts pose in front of cabin.
Members of the Graduate Group in Ecology on an Odyssey peer-mentoring trip in 2018. (Tim Forsell/UC Davis)

“Outgrow the Expected,” UC Davis’ new rallying cry, also applies to our crowdfunding.

Of the 20 teams of students, faculty and staff raising money for their projects with Crowdfund UC Davis in October, eight met or surpassed their fundraising goals — double the number of the year's first Crowdfund UC Davis. The drives are held twice a year, in February and October, run by the Office of Development and Alumni Relations.

One of the October 2021 teams exceeded its $5,000 goal by more than 500 percent, collecting $25,555 for Political Science Diversity Award scholarships. The awards will provide summer research and study support to political science doctoral students from historically underrepresented communities, such as first-generation college students and students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds.

“We are so grateful for the donations — and for the community of alumni, family, friends and faculty who immediately responded to the real need for scholarships,” said Shalini Satkunanandan, an associate professor of political science and a Chancellor’s Fellow, representing the team.


The extra funds will kick off a longer-term effort to establish an endowment supporting the scholarships in perpetuity, Satkunanandan said. What started as a relatively small Crowdfund UC Davis effort could have tremendous enduring impact.

Other projects that met or exceeded their goals were Global Community Emergency Support, Bohart Museum Traveling Exhibits, the AvenueB Community College Transfer Program, ECLIPSE Rocketry, the Odyssey peer-mentoring trip for the Graduate Group in Ecology, Global Fellowships in Agricultural Development, and Growing Diversity in the Brewing Industry.

But every team in Crowdfund UC Davis comes out a winner. October’s 20 teams raised a total $105,648 from 682 donations.

Crowdfund UC Davis began in February 2020, and in four drives so far has helped teams raise $334,345 — becoming a go-to fundraising tool for students, faculty and staff.

“We are so pleased by how widely the program is being embraced across our campuses and beyond,” said Michelle Poesy, senior director of the Annual and Special Gifts Program in Development and Alumni Relations. “This is the second time we’ve raised more than $100,000 in one cohort. And the fact that more teams are meeting or surpassing their goals shows we’re all getting more skilled at it.”

The Annual and Special Gifts Program, in cooperation with Advancement Services, reviews applications and provides the platform, some publicity, and guidance that includes a prelaunch coaching session and office hours throughout the campaign for teams requesting assistance.

Project teams must fuel the marketing and networking that lead to success. The team behind the Odyssey project in the Graduate Group in Ecology, or GGE, attributed much of their success to a vigorous email campaign.

“We wrote nine or 10 emails to our whole student body, all GGE faculty, and every alum since the year 2000,” said Paige Kouba, a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate. “I think the combination of our personal stories with an appeal to the nostalgia of this trip and people’s wish to pay it forward were what made the campaign such a hit.”

Satkunanandan, too, said email, including personal emails to friends and family, were key to her team’s campaign — and possibly were even more effective than social media. She also cited a short video produced by current and former graduate students, expressing what scholarship assistance meant to them, as being critical to the team’s success.

Media Resources

Joan Fischer is a senior writer for the Annual and Special Gifts Program in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, and can be reached by email or at 530-754-0482.

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