The country’s economic doldrums have not stopped large donations from pouring into university fundraising campaigns.
Yale University raised a total of $3.881 billion by the conclusion of its “Yale Tomorrow” campaign at the end of June.
“The Yale Tomorrow campaign has made Yale a stronger institution and magnified our impact on the world,” Yale President Richard Levin said in a statement. “Many generations of students will benefit from [donors’] generosity.”
Yale’s campaign launched in 2006 with an initial goal of $3 billion, which was later raised to $3.5 billion.
Penn’s own “Making History” campaign, which has the same goal of raising $3.5 billion, will conclude in December 2012.
By the time the renamed Perelman School of Medicine received a $225 million donation from Raymond and Ruth Perelman in May, the Making History campaign had already reached 94.6 percent of its $3.5 billion fundraising goal.
The campaign’s goal was announced in October 2007. “My goal is not only to make $3.5 billion but to blow by the goal, which, at the pace we’re going, we have a real shot at that,” Gutmann said at the time.
While the Yale campaign counted more than 110,000 donors — including alumni, parents, friends, corporations and foundations, according to a press release — Penn’s campaign so far has “enjoyed very broad based support from over 190,000 donors,” John Zeller, Penn’s Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations, wrote in an email.
“The breath and depth of the support served Penn very well during the economic downturn,” Zeller wrote.
Indeed, the economic downturn has not prevented these campaigns from progressing.
The University of Notre Dame also finished a fundraising campaign in June and raised more than $2 billion, exceeding its $1.5 billion goal.
“Most major universities don’t announce these large campaigns unless they have a large portion of the campaign already pledged,” Joni Finney, a professor at the Graduate School of Education who focuses on higher education, explained. “So, it is likely that they will be successful, unless we see another unexpected erosion of the economy, as we did in 2008.”
Yale began with a nucleus fund of $1.147 billion; Penn raised $1.6 billion in the two years before it announced its goal.
Apart from directly raising funds, Penn’s campaign is intended to raise the fundraising capacity of the University, Zeller wrote.
Even after the campaign is over, “it is our goal to sustain the momentum we have built through the Campaign well into the future,” Zeller added.
Ivy League schools have the added benefit of “fiercely loyal” alumni, said Marybeth Gasman, a professor at the Graduate School of Education who studies philanthropy and fundraising in higher education.
Alumni “know that if they contribute and add to the success of their alma mater it only makes that degree stronger,” Gasman added.
The campaign efforts themselves help ensure that donations continue, in spite of the tough economy.
“Donors like to give to successful institutions,” Gasman added. “They like to be attached to success. Also, these elite institutions are very good at creating a momentum that is empowering and exciting for donors.”