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Harvard Places Second Among Universities in Total Annual Fundraising, Per Report

Massachusetts Hall is located in Harvard Yard.
Massachusetts Hall is located in Harvard Yard. By Kathryn S. Kuhar
By Ellen M. Burstein and Camille G. Caldera, Crimson Staff Writers

After raising $1.4 billion, Harvard came in second among American universities in total funds raised in the last academic fiscal year, Bloomberg News reported Wednesday.

Harvard had topped the list of academic fundraisers since 2016. Johns Hopkins University claimed the top spot this year after it brought in $2.7 billion between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019, according to a report from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education released Wednesday.

The majority of Johns Hopkins’s funds came from former New York City mayor and current Democratic presidential candidate Michael R. Bloomberg, an alumnus of the school.

In Nov. 2018, Bloomberg pledged $1.8 billion to Johns Hopkins to help fund scholarships for low- and middle-income students. The donation enabled the school to adopt need-blind admissions practices and remove loans from financial aid packages. The gift is the single largest donation on record to an American academic institution.

Even excluding the gift from Bloomberg, Johns Hopkins raised $900 million, a figure that would have placed it just behind Harvard and Stanford, which raised $1.4 billion and $1.1 billion, respectively.

Thomas D. Parker ’64 — a senior associate at the Institute for Higher Education Policy — said he was impressed with the amount that Johns Hopkins raised, given its number of graduates.

“In that top ten, most — not all, but most — of the institutions have very large numbers of graduates, and you have to have very large numbers of graduates to generate very large amounts of money,” Parker said. “Hopkins deserves a lot of credit. They've done a great fundraising job.”

Despite its ten-figure fundraising totals, Parker said that Harvard’s fundraising intake still falls short of ideal, given its annual budget. Operating expenses at the University totaled $5.2 billion in fiscal year 2019, per its year-end financial report.

“They're not even raising their annual budget, and if you look at it that way, it's not a very big number,” Parker said. “You sort of wish that number were larger.”

University spokesperson Christopher M. Hennessy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Donald M. Fellows, a senior fundraising consultant at Marts & Lundy, emphasized that all donation numbers are relative.

“It's all relative to the type of institution, the size,” Fellows said. “The budget for a massive research university like Harvard, Stanford, MIT, they're huge, compared to a lot of other institutions or organizations.”

He cited costs ranging from financial aid, recruitment of high-caliber faculty, and facilities maintenance and upgrades.

“It's relative to the nature of these institutions. They are very, very expensive,” Fellows said. “The cost factors are huge. That's what tends to drive the larger gifts, and the greater need of those institutions to raise more money.”

Overall, colleges and universities raised nearly $50 billion in the last academic fiscal year — the highest level ever reported. This marks the tenth consecutive year that total academic fundraising has grown, per the council’s report.

Still, Parker said he believes the fundraising levels are concerning.

“None of the major fundraising universities in the country are doing enough. All of them are still kind of running scared,” Parker said. “I know that seems counterintuitive because those numbers look so big, but the costs are big as well.”

— Staff writer Ellen M. Burstein can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ellenburstein.

—Staff writer Camille G. Caldera can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @camille_caldera.

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