Evaluating College fundraising

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September 25, 2007

4:02 PM

The conclusion of the seven-year Campaign for William and Mary last year brought in over half a billion dollars in donations and pledges. At first glance, the College’s seven-year campaign may seem quite small, compared to billion dollar efforts at schools like University of Virginia.

p. “Apples to kumquats,” Sean Pieri, vice president of University Development, said, regarding any comparison to U.Va.’s fundraising drive. “William and Mary has about 70,000 to 80,000 living alumni. U.Va., being a bigger school, has more alumni and more people willing to give. For a school the size of William and Mary, $500 million is a tremendous effort.”

p. As a public institution, the College receives budgetary funds on an annual basis from the commonwealth. However, like most public universities, government funding is not enough.

p. Fundraising at the College has improved over the past ten years. In 1997, the College raised $23 million in actual donations. Over each of the past three years, the College has taken in around $49 million. Last fiscal year, the College set a new school record, receiving $49.3 million in donations. This does not take into account pledges and estate promises, only straight donations and money collected from old pledges.

p. “You can’t really measure successful fundraising if you’re only looking at one year,” Pieri said. “You have to look over a period of time.”

p. Pieri described how the College received nearly as much money from the commonwealth as it had from donations. According to budget documents obtained through the Commonwealth’s website, the College’s general fund contained approximately 49.7 million for the 2007 fiscal year.

p. Notwithstanding the remarkable advancements made in fundraising at the College, comparisons with other schools can be useful in determining what improvements can be made. Wake Forest University in Wiston-Salem, North Carolina, comparable to the College in both size and selectivity, recently completed a $689 million pledge drive, surpassing their expectations by over 15 percent. However, over a third of the funds raised will go to Wake Forest’s medical school, leaving over $400 million for the rest of the campus. According to Tim Snyder, assistant vice president and director of advancement services at Wake Forest, cash-in-hand donations amounted to over $62 million during the last fiscal year.

p. The College’s efforts compare favorably to those at other public universities as well. Miami University in Ohio is $280 million into its $500 million “For Love and Honor” drive. According to Tammy Hatcher, director of university advancement, communications and publications, actual cash-in-hand donations surpassed those at the College this year by approximately $1.6 million, totalling $50.9 million. In another example, a six year drive at the University of Vermont concluded after raising over $275 million. Both universities possess considerably larger student bodies, further emphasizing the degree of success the College has had over the past three years.

p. While the College has outperformed many public schools in its fundraising efforts, it still falls behind other competitive universities. In 2006, “The Stanford Challenge” was launched at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. According to Stanford’s website, the “Challenge” hopes to raise at least $4.3 billion over the course of the next five years. Money raised in the campaign will contribute to the funding of a variety of programs, including Stanford-sponsored charter schools designed to improve K-12 education in East Palo Alto. As of Aug. 31, Stanford had already raised over $2.9 billion.

p. “It doesn’t make sense for us to do a billion dollar campaign given our size and [the fact that we have] no med school and no engineering school,” Pieri said. “William and Mary is very unique in that it is a relatively small school. A half-billion dollar fundraising campaign is, again, a tremendous effort.”

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