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Development Office Woos Donors With That Harvard Charm

From the Yard to the yacht club, UDO pulls out all the stops

By Jenny E. Heller and James Y. Stern, Crimson Staff Writerss

In the University Development Office (UDO), housed in a posh office building off Brattle Square, charity is big business.

For more than five years, Harvard has been immersed in its Capital Campaign--a quest to shake $2.1 billion from the pockets of its alumni and other supporters. Along the way, a team of professional fundraisers, administrators and alumni volunteers have turned the process of asking for money into a science.

It all starts, according to Campaign Co-Chair Rita E. Hauser, at the top.

President Neil L. Rudenstine, Provost Harvey V. Fineberg '67 and Campaign Chair Robert G. Stone Jr. '45 form an indefatigable combination that charms Harvard's biggest gifts out of its most generous donors.

Two weeks ago, at a luncheon to announce that Harvard had surpassed its Capital Campaign goals with a total of $2.325 billion raised, Hauser wryly explained how Harvard puts on the squeeze.

The wealthiest of Harvard's potential donors, Hauser said, first receive a visit from Stone.

"Bob takes you for lunch at the [New York] Yacht Club and orders a plate of oysters," Hauser says. "[The staff] all call him 'commodore' and at the end of the lunch he says, 'wouldn't it be nice if you gave a few million?'"

The next of Harvard's three envoys to visit is Rudenstine.

"But if that doesn't work, then you get a visit from Neil and you chit-chat about the world and about the weather and then he says 'this school needs money,'" she says.

"And if that doesn't work, then you get a call from Harvey. He doesn't waste any time and asks you immediately," Hauser adds. "I have never known this trio to fail."

Harvard doesn't bring out its big guns for everyone. Most donors get a call, a visit or a letter from the UDO or its alumni volunteers.

Some alumni take the initiative and contribute without even being asked. But, in order to wring money out of the rest, the University tuned up its complex, aggressive fundraising machine.

Now this machine is downshifting for a more low-key fundraising effort aimed at helping out areas neglected in the campaign and other, new initiatives.

Good Technique

Harvard fundraising works like a well-oiled machine. All administrators and volunteers know their roles; the University has done its homework, studying the likes and dislikes of its donors.

The University sometimes uses Harvard-centered events to woo prospective donors. If the dean of a school or Rudenstine is speaking in a city, the UDO will organize fundraising meetings to catch the Harvard friends and alumni the event attracts.

Rudenstine, Fineberg, Stone and the deans of Harvard's schools meet personally with particularly wealthy or generous would-be donors.

"If a person shows a willingness to give a rather large gift, someone like the Dean of the Business School might talk to that person," says Campaign chair for the Business School Michael J. Johnston.

Johnston, an alumnus of Harvard Business School whose position is a volunteer one, has himself given about $250,000 to Harvard over the years. He says he considers himself a moderate donor.

Co-Chair of the Campaign for the Harvard University Art Museums, Desmond G. FitzGerald '65, says he's too much of a "minor league" donor to receive a call from Rudenstine.

Often, those who have given generously to Harvard are used to recruit other donors of their caliber. They wine them, dine them and then--eventually--pop the question.

"I've been going after people to give a million dollars or more," says multimillion-dollar donor and campaign volunteer Walter C. Klein '39.

Klein says the UDO instructs volunteers to spend two years ingratiating themselves with a would-be donor before asking for money.

"If you come back with $50,000, you've failed," he adds.

The UDO offers volunteers a list of "prospects"--potential donors--from which they can choose their targets.

Klein says he usually takes on five, but typically only succeeds with two.

The process is gradual. "I continue to become acquainted and then ask the person to support a particular aspect," Klein says.

"I'm sure they know the ultimate reason [for the meeting], but since I see them several times over a one- to two-year period they start forgetting what it's really about," Klein says.

Meanwhile, UDO backs up the volunteers every step of the way, providing information about what the potential donor's interests might be.

"They have a file on everybody," Klein says.

Klein says he never raises money over the phone, instead using one- hour lunches.

Alumni often shoulder much of the responsibility of calling up classmates and colleagues.

"Most of the work is done by volunteers," Fineberg wrote in an e-mail message. "It's much easier for someone who has themselves made a commitment to be persuasive."

Often this technique pays off. "They asked me to do things, and I

just did them," says donor Frank Stanton, an honorary chair of the campaign.

Learning the Ropes

Harvard's Associate Vice President for Capital Giving William H. Boardman Jr. says fundraisers--whether volunteer or UDO--never force their donors to give. Instead they present Harvard and its initiatives to alumni and friends, hoping they will be inspired to give.

"We basically spend a lot of time presenting in different ways what the dreams [of Harvard] are," Boardman says.

UDO workers teach volunteers how to raise money. This first lesson is on fundraising jargon, starting with the very name volunteers give themselves: developers.

"Development is a euphemism for fundraising," Fineberg says. "We've now got euphemisms for euphemisms."

Development officers work on "cultivation"--the process of buttering up alumni to give to Harvard, and "stewardship"--following up on donors after they have given money and telling them how their contribution is affecting the University.

With the language mastered, alumni volunteers then personalize their fundraising style and figure out how they can best convince their friends to open their wallets and pocketbooks.

Whom to Ask?

Harvard begins soliciting money from its "closest friends," according to Boardman.

"You go to the alumni and friends who have been traditionally and most recently the most supportive of Harvard," he says.

Johnston says UDO asks him for advice about how to approach his

classmates. Occasionally, they ask him to make a personal call.

"They do a lot of networking," he says. "They talk to people [who say]'I

know so-and-so has been quite successful and should be approached.'"

Harvard encourages schools with experienced and successful

fundraisers, like the Business School, to help those like the School of

Public Health that have traditionally had more trouble fundraising, says Richard L. Menschel, one of the campaign chairs.

A group of women in Denver, Colo. without Harvard affiliations

raised $1 million for a "Colorado Scholar" in the Women's Studies in

Religion Program at the Divinity School.

Those in the campaign scheme and plan, talking endlessly about how

better to hit all potential donors.

"I think you always have to identify the newer donors," Hauser

says. "There is a vast community of younger people who have made money."

Top Brass

The personal efforts of Harvard's top officials have been key in the campaign, according to most people involved.

"People give to people," Boardman says. He says the respect Harvard's leadership engenders was "one of the most powerful forces Harvard had" in raising money during the campaign.

Those involved with the campaign say Rudenstine's role was crucial to its success.

"He's not been shy about fundraising," Fineberg says. "He has played a key role in the vast majority of these major gifts."

The unconditional support of the president is crucial to the success of the campaign, Fineberg adds.

Many say Rudenstine invests hours in personally soliciting gifts from alumni and friends and then individually thanking them for their contributions.

"He is just incredible in that he writes thousands of personal letters every year," says Peter L. Malkin '55, the donor who gave money to build the Malkin Athletic Center. "He sees hundreds of people."

Boardman says that, over the last five or six years, Rudenstine has met annually with 90 to 100 people one-on-one to discuss fundraising possibilities or initiatives the University is hoping to raise money for.

Every year, Rudenstine attends 25 or 30 lunches and dinners with between 15 and 30 people each and 15 dinners each year with 75 to 200 people, according to Boardman.

Rudenstine flies to New York often to meet with the many Harvard alumni who live in that area.

Fineberg's "commitment has been comparable," to Rudenstine's, Boardman says.

Compared to presidents of the past, Rudenstine's involvement in the campaign is unprecedented. Nathan M. Pusey '28, whose presidency was considered extremely successful on the fundraising front, says he had to do far less than Rudenstine does.

"I was primarily just making speeches to groups of people," Pusey says.

The Routine

Whether or not it has set a campaign goal, Harvard is always in fundraising mode. But, UDO spokesperson Andrew K. Tiedemann says, the difference is that "there isn't one unified objective" with year-to-year money raising outside of a campaign.

For the College, during non-campaign years donors just give toward an Annual Fund with a specific yearly goal. Most schools have similar programs.

The chief fundraisers when Harvard is not in the midst of a capital campaign are the alumni class committee chairs who encourage their classmates to give, especially at the time of class reunions. Many of these were high-profile campaign volunteers.

During the current capital campaign, the University kept the

College's Annual Fund going, and used donations to it toward the campaign goal. Annual fund giving over the course of the campaign hit $100 million.

While the annual fundraising gives the University a study stream

of donations, it does not allow for special projects, renovations and new academic initiatives in the way that a campaign does.

"A campaign raises sights and gives everyone a heightened sense of teamwork working toward a tangible goal," Fineberg wrote.

Getting Started

Before going public, the University must garner the support of its

largest donors. It leaks the news of the campaign to those who have given

in the past, hoping they'll jump-start the new effort with large gifts.

"All campaigns begin quietly with meeting, consultations, dinners

and gathering, informing the closest alumni and friends that a campaign

will be launched," says Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Jeremy R.


Boardman says it is important to be certain that the University has the support before embarking on a major fundraising effort.

"If we'd had bad results [at the beginning of this campaign], we might have had to scale the goal back," he says.

The University talked to about 100 of its most devoted donors, according to Boardman.

Fineberg says administrators consulted with deans, professors,

members of Harvard's governing boards, alumni and development

professionals. Each dean developed a wish list of expenditures-originally

totaling $4 billion across the University-and then discussed how realistic those goals were.

Harvard lined up alumni to serve as the campaign heads for each of

the schools, as well as for the University Art Museums and for Memorial Church.

For 18 months, administrators held small dinners and meetings for

active alumni asking for advice and financial contributions, according to


"There was a tremendous response to that," he says.

In the aftermath of the campaign's success, Harvard has to work to maintain alumni interest in fundraising. No one expects the current giving to equal what it was during the campaign. But deans say there is much more to be done that will require funding.

"The mood [of some large donors and administrators] appears to be if Harvard has evolving needs...we would like to find a way for Harvard to continue to raise money," Boardman says.

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