Gifts to Harvard Fell Sharply Last Year

Charitable giving to Harvard declined by 30 percent in fiscal year 2002, nearly triple the decline in donations in higher education overall, according to a survey in this week’s Chronicle of Philanthropy.

But Harvard’s figure for fiscal year 2003—a year that was not included in the Chronicle’s report—rebounded to $558 million, according to the University’s Development Office.

Vice President for Development and Alumni Affairs Donella Rapier attributed the “extraordinary” performance in 2003 to successful fundraising efforts by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Harvard Business School’s capital campaign, which had raised $360 million through the end of the fiscal year.

Harvard’s drop in 2002—which Rapier called a “return to normalcy”—mirrored that of the nation’s 400 biggest nonprofits, which received gifts worth $46.9 billion that year, 1.2 percent less than the 2001 total of $47.5 billion.

Educational institutions—which occupy 131 of the 400 places on the Chronicle’s list—saw a 3.3 percent decrease in gifts last year for a total net of $14.9 billion.


The Chronicle—which reports annually on donations gathered by the nation’s 400 largest nonprofit organizations—attributed the poor results to the nation’s sagging economy and stock market. It is the first time in a dozen years that contributions to the largest 400 have declined, according to the survey.

Last year was the first time in at least seven years that Harvard has not made the top 10 in total donations on the Chronicle’s list.

Harvard earned $477 million in donations in 2002—ranking 13th place overall—and $683 million in 2001, or seventh place.

But Rapier said the 30 percent drop was deceiving because the 2001 figure had been unusually high.

She said the University received three large gifts—one $50 million and two $25 million—that year, contributing to a 40 percent spike in donations between 2000 and 2001.

“We were down 2002 to 2001 in relative terms, but fundraising doesn’t move in a straight line,” added Development Office spokesperson Andrew Tiedemann. “2001 was sort of an aberration.”

Tiedemann said Harvard’s goal for the last several years has been to raise between $450 and $500 million annually, a goal it has met each year since 1998.

The University of Southern California raised the most of any school in 2002. It catapulted from 34th place overall with gifts of $280 million in 2001 to 9th place with gifts of $585 million last year, thanks to two $100 million donations.

Harvard, however, has trailed other universities in courting large gifts from individual donors or foundations. Excluding a joint $100 million gift for a Harvard-MIT genomics institute, the University’s largest single gift was a $70.5 million bequest from the Loeb family in 1995.

Stanford, the California Institute of Technology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, MIT and Vanderbilt all have taken in single donations of more than $300 million, according to data collected by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Over 30 different universities have received individual gifts of $100 million or more.