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Capital Campaign in Trouble?

At their meeting in October, the members of the Alumni Council heard from Chief Operating Officer for Advancement Ann Root Keith that the next capital campaign was not going to begin until 2017 at the earliest:

Capital Campaign 2017 Comp.jpg

Given that the last campaign ended in 2009 at the conclusion of Jim Wright’s disastrous presidency, and that Jim Kim talked about a campaign fairly frequently (The D ran a story on January 24, 2011 entitled College preps for capital campaign), a delay of eight years or more seems a long time between major fundraising efforts.

Here’s how campaigns work: the Trustees set a goal, and then the “quiet phase” of the effort begins with the gathering of pledges amounting to about 40% of the overall goal. Once that target is reached, the administration announces the formal start of the campaign.

We are already well into the quiet phase. The Development Office has been hiring like mad, and our recruiting ads have not been shy in letting applicants know that a campaign is upcoming.

So why the long delay? I bet that fundraising is tough these days given the College’s serial scandals. Phil can’t have helped himself with his weak performance recently in New York trying to explain the BLM library invasion to an Upper East Side crowd. And as anyone who has heard Phil can confirm, his oratorical skills don’t set a room on fire — even when he is prepared to answer questions, which was not the case in Manhattan.

One on one Phil is little better. There is just no “wow factor” there in terms of personality or intellectual horsepower. And one on one is where it’s at in these campaigns: in the Campaign for the Dartmouth Experience that ended in 2009, only 1,111 alumni (yours truly included) out of 68,000 or so gave 85% of the $1.3 billion that was raised. That’s not a validation of the 80%/20% rule; that’s a new one: the 85%/1.7% rule. Or to phrase it as my kids used to say, Big Donors totally rule. Can Phil connect with them now?

Addendum: Of course, if we are game-playing, we might assume that Root gave the AC the 2017 date as a set-up for happily announcing next May or October that fundraising is going so well that the official launch of the campaign has been moved up. We’ll see.


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