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Of the 32 U.S. universities in the middle of capital campaigns of at least $1 billion, Penn gained the most in February with $26.1 million in new gifts and pledges.

Though this is not the most Penn has received in a single month - that record belongs to June 2007, when the school took in $129 million just before the Making History capital campaign entered its public-fundraising phase - the number is strong given the current economy.

"It's not the highest we've raised in a month, but what's notable given the tough times is that Penn alumni are staying engaged and staying connected with their alma mater," Penn President Amy Gutmann said.

As of the end of February, the University had raised $2.3 of the $3.5 billion, seven-year Making History campaign goal it seeks to reach by 2012.

The campaign goal for this fiscal year, which ends June 30, is $450 million in new commitments - receipts and pledges to donate in future - and $350 million in receipts. Penn is well ahead of pace to meet the latter aim, though hitting the former will be a challenge given its ambitiousness and the current economy, according to Vice President of Development John Zeller.

And while monthly fundraising targets are significant milestones, they frequently depend on chance issues of timing from one month to the next, added Zeller. Whether a donation is counted in January or February, for example, could depend on a difference of a single day. Instead, Penn pays less attention to monthly numbers and focuses on annual performance.

Last year, Penn ranked fifth among all higher-education institutions in total dollars received in FY 2008 with $476 million, up from $392.42 million in 2007, according to a Voluntary Support of Education survey conducted by the Council for Aid to Education.

As the semester wraps up, Gutmann and Zeller say predicting how the summer will affect donations is difficult, though both have acknowledged that the volatile economy has made donors more wary.

Still, Zeller emphasized that donations are "really not as seasonal as you would think."

Though annual donors generally follow seasonal giving patterns with big buildups in April, May and June, right before tax season and the end of the fiscal year, "most individual gifts are driven more by the timing of the donor and less by the calendar," he said.

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