Harvard Capital Campaign Nearing $6.5-Billion Goal
Photograph by Rose Lincoln/Harvard Public Affairs and Communications
Photograph by Rose Lincoln/Harvard Public Affairs and Communications
Although the University has not issued a year-end 2015 update, it appears that The Harvard Campaign has become the largest-grossing higher-education fundraising effort on record. Indeed, individual schools’ results (see “The Schools’ Status,” below) suggest that the campaign overall is close to its nominal goal of $6.5 billion.
At the public launch, in September 2013, the fundraising effort had already secured $2.8 billion of prior gifts and pledges. Campaign leaders, full of animal spirits, vowed they would be able to exceed the unified total. They obviously knew whereof they spoke; in short order, the fundraisers logged these milestones:
- $5 billion as of the end of 2014 (meaning the campaign had raised gifts and pledges of $2.2 billion during the first 15 months of its public phase); and
- $6 billion as of last June 30 (a further billion dollars in the ensuing six months).
Based on partial results from schools, more than $200 million has been committed since then, and fundraising activities continue at full speed. In fact, the next “Your Harvard” gala is scheduled for this evening on the Harvard Business School campus, before the Greater Boston home crowd. Even beyond such headline benefactions as a $150-million gift earmarked mostly for undergraduate financial aid, and the $350-million and $400-million endowment pledges for public health and engineering and applied sciences, respectively (the stuff of fundraisers’ dreams, if not anything they can confidently count on in advance), the momentum is impressive.
The new, unofficial tally puts Harvard’s campaign atop the $6.2-billion Stanford Challenge (not adjusted for inflation), concluded at the end of 2011, as the largest higher-education fund drive of all time. (Stanford, of course, is not resting on its laurels; it has subsequently had mini-campaigns for undergraduate education and its university hospital, and on February 23 announced gifts of $400 million, $100 million, and $50 million for a new campus-based graduate- and professional-student leadership program, a sort of Rhodes-Marshall-Gates-Schwarzman scholars program in Palo Alto, to be led by its retiring president, John Hennessy; more than $700 million of the planned $750-million endowment is in hand.)
In an environment of some public, and congressional, questioning of private institutions’ endowments, Harvard is maintaining a low profile about how much the campaign has raised. Nor does there appear to be any appetite for raising the marquee number, when the subject is broached, perhaps because of recent publicity about the share of higher-education philanthropy flowing to a relatively select cohort of institutions. Instead, the mantra is to focus on the academic priorities established during planning for the capital campaign—and on seeing to it that they are in fact fully funded, if at all possible.
Goals with Three Years To Go
With the campaign still scheduled to proceed through the end of 2018, University and school development officers and their armies of volunteers have almost three years to go to try to ensure that every school meets its individual goal, plus the overarching Harvard objectives. Among the latter, these in particular loom large: endowments for financial aid; construction of the engineering and sciences complex in Allston; undergraduate House renewal; and support for basic science.
Financial aid. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) earmarked about one-quarter of its initial $2.5-billion goal, or roughly $600 million, to endow undergraduate aid, a priority that was the beneficiary of that $150-million gift and other substantial commitments. Nonetheless, fundraising for financial aid continues for the College, graduate-student fellowships, and no doubt in many of the professional schools. The University campaign goal for financial aid and “the student experience” (which may include projected investments in athletic facilities such as renovation of Harvard Stadium and a new basketball venue) was 25 percent of the initial $6.5-billion target, or some $1.6 billion. And even though supporters have traditionally rallied to financial aid, it is easier in some schools than others to secure substantial scholarship and fellowship funds, given their graduates’ differing capacities to make gifts proportional to the identified need.
Capital projects. Fundraising for the College’s House-renewal program continues apace. The project has always depended on raising huge sums, and building renovation is a notoriously difficult goal. But as supporters and prospective donors have been able to see the physical effects of completely redoing a House (like Dunster, reopened for this academic year) and take in student reaction to their reenvisioned quarters, progress is apparently being made.
Similarly, now that the Allston engineering and applied sciences facility has been designed—with renderings available and an academic program taking shape—the vision becomes a tangible plan with which to seek philanthropic support.
Basic science. Unlike the building priorities, which were identified early in the campaign but have evolved as bricks were pointed up and architects drafted their plans, fundraising for science has emerged with a new focus in the last couple of years. Until last year, the research budget of the National Institutes of Health (the major source of federal sponsored support) had been held essentially level for several years, steadily eroding in purchasing power. For all the advances in applied science (and Harvard Campaign objectives of hundreds of millions of dollars for new engineering and applied sciences faculty positions and research funds, plus the Allston complex), that meant an increasingly difficult search for basic-science support in FAS, the Medical School, and elsewhere. Hence recent fundraising emphasis on securing support for basic research, cutting-edge inquiries that have not yet matured sufficiently to win more conventional competitive grants, and the substantial costs of setting up young investigators’ laboratories.
Other aims. Efforts are also under way to raise funds for the library system (which has wishes amounting to $150 million); for teaching innovations (like the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching and online activities under HarvardX); and, for the first time in a University-wide capital campaign, for the arts.
The Schools’ Status
Data provided by the schools for their winter campaign totals (on dates ranging from December 31 and January 31 into February) indicate that they appear to have secured gifts and pledges of more than $200 million since the figures compiled for the report on the $6-billion milestone, published last fall. (Given varying reporting dates and the schools not reported here, the sum raised is certainly larger.) The following schools reported these recent fundraising tallies:
- Harvard Business School: as of January, nearly $925 million toward the $1-billion total outlined at the launch in April 2014 (when more than $600 million had already been received or pledged). Dean Nitin Nohria’s annual message to the school, just posted, cited remaining focal points: innovation in the MBA program; accelerating the development of the online HBX; increasing the number of endowed chairs for associate professors; and building programmatic bridges with the school of engineering and applied sciences in advance of its arrival in the neighborhood.
- Harvard Divinity School: $26.5 million committed as of February 15, more than halfway toward the $50-million goal announced in April 2014. The support has to date underwritten new professorships (including a chair in religion, business ethics, and the economic order, in cooperation with the business school), and the Buddhist Ministry Initiative. The most significant challenge on the agenda is renovating the center of campus, Andover Hall.
- Graduate School of Design: $77 million as of January 31, or 70 percent of the $110-million goal outlined in September 2014—when 63 percent of the total sought was already in hand or pledged (in part reflecting a portion of a major gift to fund the Center for Green Buildings and Cities). The school reports significant success in funding its research aims, focused on broadening “design thinking” internally and across Harvard; financial-aid funds remain a significant priority. The school, landlocked and squeezed for space, has also sought campaign support for facilities renovation and expansion.
- Harvard Graduate School of Education: $187.4 million as of January 31—75 percent of the $250-million goal unveiled in September 2014, and up from 44 percent at that date. Recent benefactions include support for By All Means, an initiative to help communities take a comprehensive view of schoolchildren’s lives in an effort to eliminate the link between socioeconomic status and academic achievement.
- Harvard Kennedy School: $489 million as of February 19—within 2 percent of the $500-million goal disclosed in May 2014, when about two-thirds of the money had been raised or pledged. A recent substantial gift will underwrite the Belfer Center’s cybersecurity project.
- Harvard Medical School: $512 million as of January 31, 68 percent of the $750-million goal publicized in November 2014 (when 50 percent of the target had been raised or pledged). Notable commitments include $44 million, given anonymously, to launch the Center for Primary Care, and $14-million and $12-million gifts for work in neuroscience and neuroengineering. Dean Jeffrey Flier, who is stepping down this summer, is focusing on renovation of teaching facilities as part of the school’s new M.D. curriculum; financial aid for M.D. and graduate student fellowships; and faculty growth in therapeutic and regulatory science, among other priorities.
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: $696 million as of year-end 2015—robustly ahead of the $450-million goal publicized during its centennial year, in the fall of 2013, when just 37 percent of the funds sought had been committed during the campaign’s private phase. The outperformance reflects that $350-million gift of vitally important unrestricted endowment funds (for which the school was renamed); excluding that, the school would still have raised 77 percent of the funds it sought (and is no doubt still pursuing), despite the transition in its deanship.
- Radcliffe Institute: some 75 percent of its $70-million goal, up from 37 percent at its public launch in October 2013.