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$400 Million-Per-Year Fundraising Rate Will Continue After Campaign


Harvard's $2.1 billion, five-year Capital Campaign is nearly over, but don't tell that to the University's fundraisers. They have no intention of slowing down--even after the campaign ends in 1999.

Last year--at the midpoint of the campaign--Harvard raised more than $420 million.

Throughout the first half of the campaign, University officials were quick to warn that the second half of the massive fundraising effort would not be as easy as the first--"The second billion is always the hardest," Fred L. Glimp '50, the former vice president for alumni affiars and development once quipped.

Intuitively it might seem that gift revenues last year would have been at their pinnacle, but University officials characterize this level of giving as a new plateau, one that they plan to maintain even after the campaign--or at least until the next one.

"The idea of any modern campaign is to make the annual revenue go up in some aggressive way and to achieve that increase in such a way that that revenue is maintained after the campaign is over," said Terry M. Holcombe, vice president for development at Yale University.

Harvard officials agree.

"During a campaign, your goal becomes not to see that income drop but to keep it at that level," said Susan K. Feagin, director of the University Campaign. "You've made a case throughout the campaign, you've gotten everyone's attention, and you just have to keep it."

Development officials at univiersities across the nation said that Stanford was one of the first to observe this phenomenon and that though it has been confirmed through experience at many schools, it is not completely understood.

The immediate images of a campaign, highlighted in glossy brochures and pat sales pitches, are of posh new buildings and prestigious endowed professorships, but the long term--and less publicized effect--is to indefinitely (or at least until the next campaign) increase one of a university's most important sources of revenue.

In numerical terms, this effect is even more dramatic. Fundraisers say that during a campaign, a large research university such as Harvard can expect to double its revenue from gifts.

For Harvard, this means hundreds of millions.

Before the campaign, Harvard brought in about $200 million in gifts each year. After the campaign, Harvard hopes to net about $420 million a year in gifts, according to Thomas M. Reardon, vice president for alumni affairs and development.

President Neil L. Rudenstine said he has not settled on a specific number and would prefer to use a running average of several campaign years to set the goal.

Yale University, which finished a $1.7 billion capital campaign this summer, has seen this effect. At the beginning of the campaign, Yale raised about $118 million yearly in gift revenues. This year they raised about $205 million. And Holcombe said he expects giving to remain at this level or even rise slightly.

"You go real hard for a few years during a campaign and it tunes up the systems and it all moves forward...[but] the day after the campaign is over you still have to generate the same gift revenue," Holcombe said.

Part of the reason revenues remain high is that donors are paying off pledges left over from the campaign, Feagin said, but she adds that there's more to the dynamic.

"During a campaign, you get people engaged in the institution. As long as you don't quit paying attention to them, then they'll keep giving," Feagin said.

Rudenstine says when people give during a campaign, they realize they can achieve a new financial commitment to the institution and afterwards they usually continue it.

"The first gulp isn't as hard as the second [one]," says Jerome T. Murphy, dean of the graduate school of education.

Most of the money raised after a campaign does not, however, come from large, capital gifts like those common during a campaign. Rudenstine says that it's difficult to keep finding new donors who can give large gifts.

The other reason fund raisers have begun to see this plateau affect is that it's the culture of campaigning today.

"If costs go up every year we don't have that many options. We can't simply raise fees, and since the endowment has to be prudently spent for a long time, universities have used annual fundraising," Rudenstine said.

When this campaign is over, Rudenstine said he will begin University-wide academic planning again--the forerunner to a campaign, though Harvard has no specific plans about when it will launch another one.

"When a campaign is over, you take a long weekend and then you get started fundraising again," Murphy said.

In this environment, fundraisers say campaigns are used to solicit large gifts and usually to double the annual gift revenue. And when an institution isn't in a campaign, they are just fundraising.

"Now we're doing the same thing day in and day out, and during [a] certain part of that, we will give our fundraising a special flavor called a campaign," Holcombe said.

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