Fundraising Push Could Be Delayed Further

Harvard’s plans to launch a long-delayed capital campaign are once again in limbo, even though alumni donations have held largely steady through the current financial crisis, the University’s chief fundraiser suggested in an interview Friday.

Vice President for Alumni Affairs and Development Tamara E. Rogers ’74 cited economic uncertainties in declining to give any current schedule for the campaign, marking a departure from this fall when she said the campaign would have a tentative 2011 launch date.

“Given the present economic situation, I cannot speculate on the timing of a campaign,” Rogers said Friday.

Despite the unprecedented financial crisis, recent fundraising has been relatively stable, with gift receipts from December falling just two percent relative to the same month in 2007, according to Rogers. The University received $651 million in gifts, the second largest haul in Harvard’s history, over the last fiscal year, which ended in June.

The comparative monthly figures come at a time of financial uncertainty, as the University struggles to right itself from a projected 30 percent loss in endowment value.

“This is quite good,” Rogers said, “though I cannot predict whether these results will hold for the rest of the year.”

The relatively strong fundraising figures may not yet reflect the full impact of the economic downturn—there is often a significant lag between economic trends and changes in giving.

Harvard’s last capital campaign, which ended in 1999, raised a record-breaking $2.6 billion ($3.3 billion in today’s dollars)—then the largest total in the history of higher education. The University had intended to gear up for another campaign with a 2006 or 2007 launch date, but the 2006 resignation of then-University President Lawrence H. Summers forced Harvard to put a temporary hold on its plans, at least until a new president had been chosen.

The campaign was further delayed when University President Drew G. Faust entered Mass. Hall with several school leadership positions vacant, complicating an immediate start to campaign planning, which requires top administrators to provide input on long-term strategic initiatives both at their schools and across the University.

Faust has since filled nearly all leadership positions across the University, including deanships at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Medical School.

Currently, only the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has yet to find a permanent dean, though Harvard Law School appears likely to need a replacement for Dean Elena Kagan, who may soon be confirmed as U.S. Solicitor General.

While the University has not decided upon a definitive start date for the next capital campaign, Rogers said that the University will “continue to prepare,” and has appointed a director for the project.

Real estate mogul and major donor Peter L. Malkin ’55 wrote in an e-mail yesterday that he was not surprised by donors’ “extraordinary demonstration of loyalty” to Harvard in tough financial times.

“My guess is that some alumni are ‘stretching’ to complement the reduced capacity of others to give,” Malkin wrote.

—Staff writer Athena Y. Jiang can be reached at ajiang@fas.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer June Q. Wu can be reached at junewu@fas.harvard.edu.