University of California, Berkeley

Most Outstanding Philanthropic Program Nomination: University of California, Berkeley

Provide a detailed description of the philanthropic program and the population it served. Details MUST include: date of event, number of participants, program purpose (goals, objectives, etc.), use of resources (finances, community support, etc.), marketing techniques and evaluation processes.

I would like to nominate UC Berkeley’s Vietnamese Student Association for the Most Philanthropic Program. As Cal-VSA’s finance chair, I feel that it is imperative to first inform you on our financial situation so that you may have a better context of how this year was a major breakthrough for Cal-VSA in philanthropy.

As a completely student-run nonprofit organization, we have to earn our own money. Most of our funding pours into our annual 30k-production Culture Show and 4-day Vision high school mentorship program. Costs for our two largest programs heightened this year. For our Culture Show, this was our 40th anniversary so our production costs increased with new dances, a full physical set design, etc. For Vision, there was an additional need of financial support due to unforeseen systematic changes in the school, so this was the first year we paid for all of VISION’s Culture Show tickets. With so many events happening throughout the school year, we were always financially challenged so donating money has always been out of the question.

Because we were short on funding in the beginning of the school year, we were under a lot of financial stress. Working over 15 fundraisers and over 10 ten-hour game concessions, our members collectively devoted their energy and long hours while trying to balance school. My finance interns and I worked tirelessly to fundraise, apply for new grants, seek donations, and build partnerships with businesses. In the end, all of our work paid off as we made just enough to book the theatre for our Culture Show.

After I presented a charity proposal to the Cabinet, they voted on donating to Agent Orange victims. We believe that this is an important cause people tend to overlook because even 40 years after the Vietnam War, people are still greatly affected by Agent Orange. It did not only affect those directly exposed to this dioxin during the Vietnam War, but their children too, as many were born with genetic defects.

In hopes to raise awareness about Agent Orange and to celebrate our 40th anniversary, we dedicated a week of bake sale fundraisers to charity. Each day from April 29th to May 2nd, we tabled for four hours to sell different goods and it was truly a group effort. Whether it was volunteering to bake bánh bò nướng (it was our first time but they turned out delicious!), driving back and forth between Berkeley and San Jose to retrieve 350 mochi donuts from La Creme (a Vietnamese-family owned business!), or “willingly” sacrificing themselves to get pied on the last day of school (we used shaving cream not actual pie to avoid wasting food!), everyone partook to make this possible. I would estimate that about 30 people helped organize or volunteered during these fundraisers, but about 70 members participated in total. Many UC Berkeley students outside of VSA came to buy our treats as well and some people who were unable of being present paid us to pie people to show their support. In entirety, I would estimate over a hundred people, members and non-members, participated in donating to this cause.

Regarding marketing tactics, we owe it to our publicist for always putting so much time and effort into designing our beautiful banners for our facebook event. To have the most efficient marketing, my finance interns drafted a posting schedule and assigned each position in the Cabinet board and intern committee a day to post. This ensured that people would be reminded about our fundraisers daily. We further extended our reach by posting in other facebook groups, such as Berkeley’s Free & For Sale, or sharing the event to different messaging chats. Everyday, we would post pictures and videos in the event page, in our VSA Social Group, or on the official Cal VSA page itself, which has about a thousand followers.

Another marketing strategy we had was merely to use our voices! As our cabinet and interns tabled, they all screamed with enthusiasm to catch the attention of passersby and often it worked. We also had poster signs to display. To increase sales, we offered a discount if they bought more. We also gave a discount if they filled out the pre-order form (ordered in advance) to give us an idea of how much to supply. To incentivize our volunteers to attract more people to pie them, we gave a $10 gift card to the member who got pied the most (our President got the highest record of getting pied 13 times!). To thank drivers who spent hours in morning traffic or tablers who took extra shifts, we offered them each a free mochi donut.

What motivated the organization to host the philanthropic program? What efforts were used to motivate and involve the organization’s members?

For us, it was expected to always save any leftover money for our future shows and doing any kind of philanthropic events would be out of the ordinary. However, we realized if we kept this selfish mindset every year, we will never give back to the community. So instead of adhering to the norm, we chose to show our gratitude for the opportunities and support we’ve had the past 40 years and pay it forward.

Despite all these efforts to get more people involved, I believe that our members were already self-motivated. Although we were all burnt out after our Culture Show and Vision programs, our VSA members went out of their way to throw on extra fundraisers, even though they did not need to. They exhibited altruism through their sincere intent to promote the welfare of others. Their hard work and compassion fueled these events, leaving lasting impacts as we will orchestrate more charity fundraisers in the future and raise awareness on issues in the Vietnamese community. Through these minor, but impactful, humanitarian acts, we hope to inspire others to challenge the norm and learn to give back, no matter the size of scale.

How did the organization overcome any challenges that arose while planning and implementing the cultural program? What was the outcome of the program in terms of goals met, successes, and failures?

Growing up, I was taught that you should genuinely perform acts of generosity from the kindness of your heart and seek no reward in return. However, I strongly believe that our Cal-VSA really did go above and beyond, as I have watched them devote so much time, passion, hard work, and energy this past year. Behind the scenes, there is a lot of logistical planning and tiresome work that went into our events, but nevertheless, our members were able to execute their responsibilities. The fact that they were willing to begin this charity work anew, especially because we typically never do this sort of thing, really shows the courage and drive of our members. Perhaps I do feel somewhat guilty for throwing on so much additional work onto other members in our organization, but I truly appreciate them all from going the extra mile to support this cause, and I would like to acknowledge them for this reason. Thus, I believe Cal-VSA deserves recognition through this award, for their teamwork and dedication are what solidified the success of our philanthropic events and helped make a difference in our community.

Raising $600, we successfully surpassed our goal of $500! The proceeds will go to the Blind Vietnamese Children Foundation (BVCF) to support visually-impaired children in Vietnam who lost their sight due to reasons such as exposure to Agent Orange, deficiency of nutritious food, vitamin A deficiency, the inappropriate use of medicines, poor hygiene, limited access to eye-care services, premature birth, and accidental injuries.