How This B-School Landed a Historic Gift

With slashed funding at public universities, schools have been forced to make difficult decisions and scramble for new sources of support. Consider the highly regarded University of California system. According to the Los Angeles Times, in 2013, UC system leaders approved a contentious plan that turned its MBA programs into a self-supporting unit that depends on donations and tuition. In prior years, these programs were getting around $8 million in funding. This is quite a change, and public schools across the country have had to look at their fundraising plans.

I've written before about philanthropy's increasing role in supporting state colleges and universities. This particular situation reminds me of a $100 million gift to the University of North Carolina that I wrote about last year. A wealthy alumnus, Fred Eshelman, who had long been involved with the board, saw his school in a bind and stepped in when the state did not.

Related: Key Takeaways from a Giant Alumni Gift to a Public University

In that story, we noted that alums are becoming increasingly aware of the impact of budget cuts, and that this concern can be a powerful cultivation strategy.

Back to the UC system, we have a more recent case study at UCLA's Anderson School of Management. Anderson is one of several MBA programs in the University of California system that are now self-supporting. Well, the school recently received a $100 million gift from Marion Anderson, the widow of late businessman John Anderson, for whom the school is named. The $100 million will be split with $60 million establishing an endowment for financial aid, faculty stipends and research, and the remaining $40 million funds the cost of a new building.

Several things stand out here. First, like Eshelman, the Andersons are deeply involved with UCLA. A $15 million gift back in 1987 named the school after Anderson. According to UCLA, the Andersons have given $142 million to the management school over the years, including this gift. Huge streams of money have flowed toward this specific school that's named after Anderson, so it's no surprise that Marion would continue to support it, particularly when a monied donor was needed.

Another element here is timing. UCLA is in the midst of a campaign to raise $4.2 billion by 2019, the centennial of the university's founding. Perhaps this also helps explain the size of the gift. Often, donors want to make a statement and encourage others to give by taking the first step.