Design School Campaign Raises $7 Million in 13 Months

Harvard’s Graduate School of Design has raised about $76.2 million toward its $110 million goal

Harvard’s Graduate School of Design raised just about $7 million in its segment of the University’s ongoing capital campaign in the 13 months following the launch of its public phase in September of last year.

Although the $76.2 million that the school had raised as of Oct. 31 represents about 69 percent of its total campaign goal of $110 million, it puts the fundraising drive on a significantly slower pace compared to many other schools and Harvard as a whole, which is fast approaching its overall goal of $6.5 billion.

Between the school’s public launch in September 2014, when it had already raised more than $69 million, and late February, the Design School raised a little more than $1 million. Its fundraising has quickened since then, to about $6 million between the ends of February and October, meaning the school has raised a monthly average of about $750,000 in that time.

Drew Faust + GSD
University President Drew G. Faust at the Graduate School of Design capital campaign launch event in Septebmer 2014.

Harvard’s capital campaign is slated to conclude in 2018, so the Design School will need to raise more than $750,000 per month on average to meet its goal by that time. Still, school fundraisers were optimistic about the campaign’s progress in a recent interview.

“We’re feeling pretty good, to be quite honest,” said John K. F. Irving ’83, one of the Design School campaign’s co-chairs, suggesting that the school has gained traction with alumni and other donors.


According to Brad Quigley, the Design School’s director of alumni programs, the school’s alumni participation rate for annual giving increased to 9.8 percent in the 2015 fiscal year from 9.4 percent the year before. The school’s target is 15 percent alumni participation by the end of the campaign.

Eighty percent of the school’s donors have made gifts of less than $100 each, Quigley said.

The Design School’s alumni base is limited in its ability to make large donations, according to school administrators, because graduates often earn smaller salaries than alumni of Harvard Business School and others.

“Alumni with a background in design don’t always have numerous make large donations,” Design School Dean Mohsen Mostafavi said in March.

The Design School has raised about 30 percent of its fundraising goal for financial aid, one of the campaign’s priorities, according to Irving, who called it a “bit of a challenging area” for graduate schools compared to the College.

“Many people would view people who’ve attended graduate schools as [if] they’ve had jobs or getting jobs, going on to other things,” Irving added, suggesting that donors may not immediately think graduate students need as much aid as undergraduates.

Still, the Design School is trying to push financial aid heavily at this point in the campaign, given the amount of debt its students accrue. Roughly 90 percent of students there receive financial aid, and the average grant is $18,500, according to Kevin Derrick, a school spokesperson.

Sixty-seven percent of the school’s financial aid budget comes from its operating budget, the highest proportion of any of Harvard’s schools, according to Beth Kramer, the Design School’s associate dean for development and alumni relations.

With regards to financial aid, Kramer said, the school feels “this kind of moral responsibility of how much debt the students take on here, and [that] they take on more debt than any of the other schools at Harvard.”

As for other campaign priorities, according to Irving and Kramer, $30 million will go toward student experience initiatives including financial aid; $30 million will support “enhancing global impact” through research, pedagogy, and studios; about $20 million will go to endowing faculty chairs and programs; and about $30 million will fund upgrades to school facilities, including the addition of a research facility to Gund Hall and upgrades to the school’s libraries.

Irving described the library upgrades as a “slightly more complicated issue, perhaps, than it is for what people would traditionally think of in a library.”

“The library question at the GSD, for example, not just includes books, but it has to include drawings, in fact there’s materials libraries where you can go in and see various samples,” Irving said.

Planning work is already underway on the research addition to Gund Hall, according to Irving, as are other expansions to the campus, such as the creation of a Center for Green Buildings and Cities and the expansion into properties such as 7 Sumner Rd.

—Staff writer Vimal S. Konduri can be reached at