Fundraising Total Falls Eight Percent

Harvard received $602 million in gifts this past fiscal year—an 8 percent decline from last year’s total, University officials announced yesterday.

Adjusted for inflation, that figure falls short of the average amount raised this decade. The University’s highest-ever total of $651 million ($792 million in today’s dollars) came at the end of its last capital campaign in fiscal year 2001.

Citing the economic recession’s impact on Harvard philanthropy, the University’s chief fundraiser Tamara E. Rogers ’74 described the results as “inevitably disappointing, but not surprising.”

After Harvard administrators started planning for a 30 percent drop in its $36.9 billion endowment by the fiscal year’s end, each of the University’s schools—and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in particular—made a conscious push to bring in as many unrestricted gifts as possible. Rogers said that the strategy certainly helped boost fundraising numbers for the year, and Harvard will continue its efforts to raise current use funds.

Of the $188 million FAS raked in this year, $33 million were unrestricted, current use funds—a 38 percent increase from the $24 million donated the previous fiscal year.

Fifteen percent of this year’s gifts will fund financial aid programs across the University, which Rogers said have received enthusiastic support from alumni, including those who were financial aid recipients themselves.

Despite continued support from alumni, Rogers said that it is too early to set a tentative launch date for the University’s long-derailed capital campaign but that Harvard will continue to plan.

After Harvard’s last capital campaign, which raised a record-breaking $2.6 billion ($3.4 billion in today’s dollars)—then the largest in the history of higher education—the University had intended to gear up for another campaign in 2006 or 2007. But the 2006 resignation of then-University President Lawrence H. Summers effectively put those plans on hold.

The campaign was further delayed as University President Drew G. Faust entered Mass. Hall with several school leadership positions vacant, which University officials said complicated an immediate start to campaign planning, as they wanted top administrators in place to provide input on long-term strategic initiatives.

Faust has since filled nearly all leadership positions across the University, including deanships at FAS, the Medical School, and the Law School, and most recently, the executive vice president post.

Citing economic uncertainties this winter, the University once again pushed back capital campaign plans, which had called for a tentative 2011 launch date, despite relatively stable alumni donations at the time. Gift receipts from December fell just 2 percent relative to the same month in 2007.

But alumni philanthropy, often viewed as a lagging indicator of the current economic conditions, slowed during the spring months, Rogers said.

Spurred by class reunion gift committees, Harvard did see a spike in donations during May and June, contributing to 20 percent of the annual amount, but the increase was still noticeably smaller than last year’s levels, Rogers explained.

This year’s fundraising total was aided by a number of large donations, most notably a $125 million gift over the next five years—the largest in Harvard’s history—from Business School graduate Hansjörg Wyss to fund the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering in Allston. Gifts of over $1 million accounted for over 40 percent of the cash total.

—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.