- Harvard University just wrapped up a record-breaking capital campaign, raising about $9.6 billion in five years— more than $3 billion over its goal, and about $3.4 billion more than the previous largest college fundraising effort, the Harvard Crimson student newspaper reported.
- The funds support 142 endowed professorships and about $1.3 billion in financial aid, as well as research on topics such as cancer and climate change. Other fundraising priorities included current-use gifts, which are used to fund projects that arise without time for fundraising, as well as the rebuilding of several undergraduate dorms.
- Funds raised will also help the university offset the new tax on endowment returns passed in 2017 as part of the Trump tax plan, and the 633,000 gifts came from donors in 173 countries.
Stanford University previously had the largest capital campaign, raising $6.2 billion in a five-year effort ending in 2012. Of that sum, $250 million was to be used for need-based undergraduate scholarships. It was also planned to fund 130 endowed faculty appointments and 360 new graduate student fellowships.
The University of California, Los Angeles reported in July that it had reached its $4.2 billion fundraising goal a year and a half ahead of schedule, though it plans to continue the effort through 2019. University officials said the campaign was successful so early because it attracted several large gifts, with half the total raised by 117 donors giving more than $5 million each. However, 95% of the donors made contributions of less than $10,000.
Giving to colleges and universities increased 6% from 2016 to 2017, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, driven by more alumni donations. The sum raised — $43.6 billion across higher education institutions — is the largest since the annual survey began 1957. Large private colleges were the biggest fundraisers, with Harvard ($1.28 billion), Stanford University ($1.13 billion) and Cornell University ($743.5 million) leading the list. The top 20 fundraising institutions raised more than one-quarter of the funds gathered by the some 3,700 institutions surveyed, a share they've maintained for several years.
Smaller colleges are looking to fundraising, too. St. John's College, a private institution with campuses in Maryland and New Mexico, is hoping a new campaign will raise $300 million to pay for a $17,000 per-student reduction in its posted tuition price. Several small institutions have closed because enrollment has dropped along with state support, and fundraising has not been enough to match the shortfall. Others such as Sweet Briar College, in Virginia, have rallied alumnae with massive, rapid fundraising drives in order to keep from closing.
To keep their doors open, institutions will need the support of their donors. Young donors can be challenging to reach in fundraising campaigns, and colleges are exploring new ways to get their support, a 2017 report from consultancy Ruffalo Noel Levitz found. As colleges address a general shortage of fundraisers in the industry, they should also consider whether the replacements speak to the growing diversity among student and alumni bodies — an acknowledgement that will be critical to tapping into the wealth of young alumni.