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Harvard Shifts Capital Campaign Communications

By Brandon J. Dixon and Leah S. Yared, Crimson Staff Writers

UPDATED: January 24, 2017 at 10:06 p.m.

With a year and a half left in its historic capital campaign, Harvard’s alumni affairs and development team will grant fewer interview requests to The Crimson with a top fundraising official, limiting public updates about the largest fundraising drive in higher education history.

Throughout the capital campaign, the University has granted The Crimson interviews with Tamara E. Rogers ’74, vice president for alumni affairs and development, as often as once a semester. During these interviews, she would sometimes detail Harvard's fundraising levels.

But in a change of tack, the University will offer fewer interviews with Rogers about the capital campaign, and it will release updates at the close of the fiscal year. In previous interviews with The Crimson, Rogers also answered questions about qualitative aspects of the fundraising drive. The University last detailed the progress of the fundraising drive in a public update in September.

Rogers responded to Crimson inquiries about campaign updates in an emailed statement Monday.

“Thanks to the generous support of our alumni and friends we have made great progress toward these goals, but there is important work that remains ahead,” she wrote.

Harvard blew past its $6.5 billion campaign goal in 2016, announcing in September that it had amassed more than $7 billion in campaign donations over the five-year life of the drive—a total that breaks higher-education fundraising records. Fundraising officials and administrators are focusing their efforts on a number of individual priorities within the campaign, including undergraduate House renewal, financial aid, and construction in Allston, that remain unfulfilled.

Despite the overall effectiveness of the campaign, University administrators have remained relatively tight-lipped about its quantitative progress.

To some fundraising experts, the University’s practice of making public statements about the campaigns differs from the practice in place at other large institutions. Timothy M. Winkler, the CEO of a fundraising firm which consults on higher education capital campaigns, said the shift could constitute a “new trend” in the industry.

“Most universities have more frequent campaign updates,” Winkler said.

Another fundraising consultant, Philippe G. Hills of fundraising firm Marts & Lundy said that changing communication strategy is a tactic frequently employed by large institutions as they reach the end of their fundraising drives.

“As you get closer to the goal, you want to keep people a little bit more anxious about what the goal is,” Hills said. “It’s different for each institution, but you almost always see institutions do fewer reports as you get to the end date of the campaign.”

Harvard’s capital campaign will end in June 2018.

—Staff writer Brandon J. Dixon can be reached at brandon.dixon@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @BrandonJoDixon.

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Central AdministrationFundraisingCapital CampaignHarvard Communications