Squeezing Dollars From Alums

THE MONEY TREE The first in an occasional series on fundraising

Harvard wants your money.

No, not just the tuition required to attend classes, or the fees for room and board, or the expenditures at the Coop. That's only the tip of the iceberg.

In order to maintain its position as the richest university in the world, Harvard has to go much further than collecting required payments, into the realm of fundraising.

As a consequence, the school has developed one of the most sophisticated development apparatuses in the academic world. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, last year Harvard ranked 11th nationally in contributions received among all charitable organizations and first among universities.

Harvard's success in this area has allowed it to amass an endowment of $6 billion, far and away the highest in the country.


Currently, the school is running a University-wide capital campaign with a goal of $2.1 billion, a sum unprecedented in academia. To reach that goal, in the words of President Neil L. Rudenstine, "will require the University to raise $1 million a day."

But the impressive numbers require a lot of effort--most of which is focused on University alumni. While Harvard gets its share of big gifts from non-graduates, the majority of its donations comes from those with ties to the school.

Much like the aura of a University degree, requests for contributions will follow Harvard students for the rest of their lives--especially if they make enough money following graduation to make a "substantial" gift to their alma mater.

From Beginning to End

Students receive their first exposure to Harvard's fundraising network before they even get their diplomas. From the first year of college onward, the Parents Fund solicits all undergraduate parents for donations in excess of the approximately $25,000 they are already paying yearly.

Members of the Class of '95 have already received letters encouraging them to contribute to the Senior Gift. Seniors should get used to the calls and letters associated with the Gift--Harvard friends or possibly minor acquaintances will be calling them before every reunion in search of contributions for Harvard.

And most of them will end up contributing. This past year, a majority of the College's alumni contributed to the school. Even more remarkable, according to Joseph O'Donnell '67, a University fundraiser who chaired his 25th reunion drive, between 85 and 90 percent of alumni contribute to their 25th reunions.

Procuring that amount of donations is obviously not one of the easiest tasks. Ernest E. Monrad '51, chair of the Divinity School's current fund-drive, calls donating "an unnatural act of divesting oneself of money."

Long-time University donor and fundraiser Albert F. Gordon '59 says the best rainmakers manage to "squeeze blood out of a rock."

Most students are completely unaware of the extent of the fundraising machine, yet there is an entire office, the University Development Office (UDO), devoted to gathering funds for Harvard.