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Crowdfunding Enriches Black Life, Teaching and Research at UCLA

A Black student in a button-up shirt and tie smiles at the camera while holding a file folder. Behind him is a conference room bustling with mainly Black students, many of them in business attire.
Students, researchers and organizations across campus are able to benefit year-round from generous donations made by new and loyal supporters during Black History Month.

Every gift to UCLA, no matter its size, has a positive impact. And when people come together and pool their donations toward a common goal, they increase their ability to make significant change.

This is the key idea behind Spark, UCLA’s online crowdfunding platform, which has become a popular — and powerful — way for campus organizations to connect with supporters. It also enables donors to unite around a shared passion by contributing whatever they are able to give.

Strength in Numbers

In February 2023, to coincide with Black History Month, eight Spark campaigns invited donors to invest in a variety of Black life, teaching and research projects. Together, they prompted a surge of Bruin generosity. All eight attracted strong support — collectively receiving 465 donations, ranging from $1 to $2,500 and totaling more than $59,000 — with four campaigns exceeding their fundraising targets. The Spark campaigns clearly resonated with people, as 27 percent of those who made donations had never given to UCLA before.

Laura Lavado Parker, associate vice chancellor for development, was thankful for the outpouring of support, saying, “So many in the Bruin community are finding that crowdfunding is a fantastic way for gifts to UCLA, of any amount, to make an outsized impact. The engagement and enthusiasm we saw for Black History Month Spark campaigns is truly inspiring. It’s wonderful that like-minded donors, both new supporters and loyal friends, are coming together to support UCLA in personal and meaningful ways.”

Year-round Impact

While the eight campaigns ran for a single month, the beneficial effects of Spark giving are being felt year-round.

For its campaign, the Black Bruin Resource Center (BBRC), which was founded in 2021 to serve as a hub for the Black Bruin experience, set a goal of attracting 200 donors. By month’s end, its appeal had garnered 222 gifts. The funding creates possibilities for new collaborations with campus partners, and helps the BBRC gather the data it needs to expand and enrich its range of programs, including hands-on learning experiences and peer-to-peer support.

The department of African American studies also went above and beyond its goal, raising 116 percent of its target number of campaign donations. These gifts will empower the department to strengthen its commitment to social justice, as students and faculty continue pursuing scholarship and research around the issues that define the Black experience.

Raising Awareness Inspires More Giving

Not only can a Spark campaign galvanize donors to give in support of a particular cause, it also can inspire separate and even surprising acts of philanthropy.

When the Vice-Provost’s Initiative for Pre-College Scholars (VIPS) launched its campaign, its goal was to raise $5,000 for a single scholarship. The campaign surpassed that target, raising $5,846 thanks to gifts from 26 generous donors.

In addition, as a direct result of one of the email messages promoting the Spark campaign, VIPS also received a gift of $50,000 from an anonymous donor. This generous donation — which helped provide a wide range of courses, workshops, training and mentoring to 98 students during the summer — was made possible by the Spark campaign that raised the organization’s profile.

Every Donation Counts

Every gift to a Spark campaign makes a difference. Whether or not a campaign reaches its goal, UCLA puts all donations to good use.

The Ralph J. Bunche Library and Media Center, for example, raised 65 percent of its Spark target. As a result, the Bunche Library has made important progress on clearing a backlog of essential work that had built up during pandemic closures. Bunche purchased more supplies and hired additional students to support researchers in a much-needed inventory of its collection.

The UCLA chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), too, found success. Their objective was to raise funds to send all their members to the 49th Annual NSBE Convention in Kansas City, Missouri. Although the campaign did not quite reach its financial goal, donations from 74 donors meant they could fully sponsor 15 students to attend. Three of those students received on-the-spot job offers.

The boost that crowdfunding gave each of these projects and organizations speaks to the power of every individual to make a difference. Future Spark campaigns throughout the year will offer donors more opportunities to give collectively in support of Black life, teaching and research.

To learn more about campus organizations that support Black Bruins all year round, contact

Marcía Campbell619-339-4186

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