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Despite shifts in the economy, Penn continues to push ahead with its capital campaign, to date raising $2.3 billion - or 66 percent - of its $3.5 billion, seven-year Making History campaign goal.

However, the school is seeing increased slowdowns in giving and expects that trend to persist until the economy picks itself up again.

"We're experiencing something similar to what every nonprofit that raises money is experiencing, and we expect some slowing down in new commitments," Penn President Amy Gutmann said. "That said, we are extraordinarily ahead of our target this year for cash receipts and commitments, and we have a large number of new donors."

So far in fiscal year 2009, which began in July 2008 and ends June 30, Penn has received $271 million in commitments - 60 percent of its goal this year - and $300 million in cash receipts - 86 percent of its goal. Of the $3.5 billion campaign target, Penn is aiming to raise $1.75 billion for the endowment and has received $1 billion to date.

Overall, Penn is 6 to 7 percent ahead of its annual goals, according to Vice President of Development John Zeller.

Last year, according to a Voluntary Support of Education survey, Penn ranked fifth among all higher-education institutions in total dollars received in FY 2008 with $476 million, up from $392 million in 2007.

Stanford University raked in the most donations, followed by Harvard, Columbia and Yale universities.

Many of the highly ranked schools on the survey - including Penn - are in the middle of large capital campaigns.

Part of a larger report released at the end of last month by the Council for Aid to Education that documented charitable giving to higher education, the survey announced that though U.S. colleges and universities set another record in 2008 donations with $31.6 billion, the economy's downturn will affect giving patterns in 2009 and 2010.

Even in 2008, the study revealed that donations on the whole rose 6 percent, but actually declined 4.2 percent when the top 20 institutions by contributions were removed.

"Even at institutions that reported healthy gains in fiscal 2008, advancement professionals told us they had 'hit a wall' in January 2009 and that the decline was substantial," said Ann Kaplan, the survey's director, in a release. "Both the number and value of contributions dropped early in the calendar year."

Donations to Penn, as a lagging indicator of the economy, have fallen in line with those predictions and have slowed more in the past few months.

"People are saying, 'I'm willing to support you, but I'm just not willing to make the commitment today,' which is understandable given the uncertainty and volatility," said Zeller.

He added that donations will see the impact until donors feel some sense of stability.

School of Arts and Sciences Dean Rebecca Bushnell called the slowdown "inevitable," attributing it largely to uncertainty about the future.

Because donations have been broad in terms of the areas of the University they support, Zeller added that he does not expect any one area to suffer more than others.

In response, Penn has stepped up its outreach to alumni, who, according to Zeller, see the school as a stable platform and comfort zone.

"If you look historically at the last 50 years, philanthropy - even in the most-challenging economic times - continues," said Zeller. "The question is if [today's situation] is like the past 50 years."

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