$6 Billion-Plus

Update, October 21, 2015, 12:30 p.m. After this article was reported, two more schools provided data on the status of their campaign fundraising. The Harvard Kennedy School reported securing gifts totaling $432 million (toward a $500-million goal) as of last June 30; its extensive campus renovation and reconstruction project, previously reported as budgeted at about $125 million, for which fundraising was to have been completed before breaking ground, now is shown as having realized $90 million in support toward a goal of $155 million. Harvard Medical School reported fundraising of $475 million as of September 30—63 percent of a $750-million goal. Gifts and pledges to support research and discovery, the largest campaign aim at $500 million, have reached $318 million; some $37 million has been realized toward the $160 million sought for "education," at a time when the school is implementing its new curriculum.

The Harvard Campaign had gathered $6 billion in gifts and pledges as of June 30, vice president for alumni affairs and development Tamara Elliott Rogers has confirmed. The receipts, 92 percent of the nominal $6.5-billion goal, are up from $2.8 billion at the public launch in September 2013, and $4.3 billion nine months later, as of the end of that fiscal year. The arithmetically inclined will note that, to fundraisers’ delight, the pace of giving accelerated during the past fiscal year, rising to a 12-month total of between $1.7 billion and $1.8 billion. With even modest luck this fall, including the scheduled public launch of Harvard Law School’s fundraising effort, the campaign ought to stride past the higher-education record: $6.2 billion, realized by The Stanford Challenge at its conclusion in 2012. 

Two gifts of unrestricted endowment funds for public health and engineering and applied sciences ($750 million in toto), announced during the 2014-2015 year, anchored the swelling sum. Other important contributors included an unspecified gift, thought to be $60 million to $75 million, for computer-sciences professorships; a $24-million public-health program; a $10-million gift for teacher training; and various deadline donations during the fall 2014 launches of the design, education, and medical school campaigns. 

It would not be surprising were the pace to slow a bit. During the first weeks of the fall semester, the avalanche of announcements dwindled compared to 2014; the notable gifts were a $15-million donation to undergraduate public-service-oriented courses and fellowships, and a $20-million foundation gift to Harvard Medical School.

Campaign leaders are not spending much time crowing about results: they are focused on pursuing priorities that are not yet fully funded; and the University is not especially eager to prompt envy of Harvard, especially when public institutions’ finances remain under duress. (Nor should anyone look for the campaign goal to be raised just for the bragging rights.) Nonetheless, some details are available:

  • The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) has raised $2.2 billion toward its $2.5-billion goal, including the $400-million endowment gift for engineering and applied sciences, bringing funds raised for that school alone to $589 million. But excluding that gift and the gift for computer-sciences faculty, engineering and applied sciences fundraising could be said to be lagging its $450-million goal—in part reflecting a decanal succession and changes in the development staff. Meanwhile, FAS is redoubling efforts to secure gifts for House renewal, for which $197 million had been secured as of June 30, against a target of $400 million (a new challenge fund has just been launched), and pursuing priorities such as Dean Michael D. Smith’s “leading in learning” agenda, encompassing online technology, teaching spaces, training, and more ($62 million raised, $150 million sought).
  • Harvard Business School has raised $861 million toward its billion-dollar goal.
  • The public-health school, beneficiary of the $350-million endowment gift that conferred naming rights in honor of the late T.H. Chan, has chosen to exclude that sum from its spring report on results, emphasizing the specific priorities for which it still seeks support. On that basis, as of March 31, it had gifts and commitments for $287 million toward an objective of $450 million.
  • The Graduate School of Education has raised $177 million as of August 31—71 percent of its $250-million goal.
  • The Radcliffe Institute reported raising $45 million—64 percent of its $70-million goal.

Other schools had not provided detailed reports at the time this issue went to press.

Beyond the priorities enumerated above (like House renewal), it is clear that University-level fundraising will continue to focus on these goals:

  • endowing financial aid, particularly in schools with lower-income alumni;
  • securing broad support for basic scientific research, in light of the uncertain outlook for federal sponsorship—and especially for the medical school, which (like FAS) is reported to be running a significant budget deficit as research funds have diminished; and
  • underwriting the marquee Allston science and engineering complex, scheduled for construction beginning next year (see “Brevia”).

With three years of public campaigning to go, the fundraisers regard their work as far from done.

Read more articles by: John S. Rosenberg

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