Sunday, October 22

The horse race of university capital campaigns

On Saturday, October 21, Joe Nocera had a great piece in the New York Times, "The University of Raising Big Money." In his article, Nocera sumarizes the HUGE campital campaigns currently underway at major universities across the country.

Last week, Stanford University unveiled its new capital campaign, called the Stanford Challenge, which aims to raise $4.3 billion by 2011. That stunning amount is a record for a university fund-raising campaign, but not by much. It overtook Columbia, which just a few weeks earlier had announced a $4 billion campaign of its own.

Then there’s Yale University, which has just begun a $3 billion campaign. The University of Virginia is also raising $3 billion. Brown University is trying to raise $1.4 billion; Johns Hopkins, $2 billion; New York University, $2.5 billion; the University of Chicago, $2 billion. Back in 1987, Stanford was the first school to raise $1 billion in a capital campaign.

Today, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, more than 25 universities are conducting campaigns of $1 billion or more. Indeed, just about the only school conspicuously missing from the list is Harvard.
Yes. That is a lot of money. And the Development Directors at every school seem to say the same thing about there being a "great" need for all this money. But what about schools that are using these record breaking fundraising results to make something that was already great into something greater. So, what need is being met? The need to be great or the more complex need to be greater than all the others?

...and what does that say about the state of philanthropy today?

UPDATE: The University of Maryland just announced that they too will launch a $1 billion campaign. Private U.S. colleges have been hitting up alumni for decades, but public schools have only recently gotten into the fundraising game - in fact, the article says just 12 have reached the goal that UM has set for itself.

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