Eric Thomas, the vice-chancellor of Bristol University, has been appointed head of the new task force on giving that was promised in the white paper on higher education earlier this year.
The white paper says that the task force will "encourage institutions and potential donors to promote the existing incentives for individual and corporate donation and to encourage change in university and individual behaviour".
Professor Thomas said that it was not yet clear whether the task force would take on managing the matching endowment fund also proposed in the white paper.
"We will be looking at ways of increasing donations to universities but we have not yet held our first meeting or defined our terms of reference. The Department for Education and Skills is preparing a series of position papers on the issue," he said.
Other members of the task force include Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, and Mary Blair, director of the London School of Economics office of development and alumni relations. It is understood that there will also be a representative from a major UK charity.
Mr Lampl said: "The idea of a matching endowment fund certainly ought to be explored, although it is fairly controversial. Why should the government give to universities in this way and not to charities such as the Save the Children?"
Mr Lampl, a donor to higher education in the UK and US, said: "It is far easier to give in the US and the donor receives all the tax relief. The UK system needs to be simpler."
He added: "We need to change the culture in the UK so that alumni are encouraged to see themselves as part of a community from even before graduation. Wealthy donors don't just turn round and give one day - they have usually had a long relationship with a university."
A Sutton Trust report comparing UK and US endowments, published earlier this year, shows that the UK lags far behind the US. Oxford and Cambridge universities, with estimated total endowments worth £2 billion, would come 15th in a league table of US institutions' endowments.