UC turns to social media to raise student aid

Putting a technological spin on the adage that it takes a village to raise a child, the University of California launched a campaign on Wednesday to harness the power of social media to raise money for student scholarships.

The six-week effort combines the old-school model of donors pledging funds toward a specific fundraising goal with the Internet-driven concept known as crowdsourcing.

As part of the campaign, students, alumni, business executives, politicians and even a handful of Hollywood celebrities are promising to perform a task if enough of their supporters help them reach a certain dollar amount. Jamie Foxx has offered to perform a rap song if donors give $20,000 in his name, while Gov. Jerry Brown says he will host a lunch for 10 UC students if his contributions hit $10,000.

Participants are supposed to tell people on their social networks about their promise and invite them to make donations through links to the campaign's website, www.promiseforeducation.org.

UC Regent Sherry Lansing, who tapped Hollywood connections from her days as a studio chief to get the project off the ground, called it “the democratization of fundraising.”

“We are trying to get everybody involved. To raise $100, $200 or $1,000, it's all important because it's going to nothing but financial aid,” Lansing said.

Student Regent Cinthia Flores said she and other student leaders initially were skeptical about the campaign, fearing it was a way to make students who have experienced several years of tuition hikes responsible for generating funds the state should be providing.

Flores said her concerns were alleviated once she learned that it was not only students who would be enlisted as fundraisers and donors. She has already vowed to dress as Superwoman for a day — as a die-hard Batman fan, that's a monumental task — and raised $800 of her $1,000 goal.

“There are a lot of things I do for the UC system,” she said.

Daniel Dooley, the system's senior vice president for external relations, said about $2 billion a year is awarded to UC students through scholarships and government grants. Money from the current campaign will all be devoted to scholarships based on financial need, Dooley said.Bay Area NewscrowdsourcingeducationscholarshipsUniversity of California

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