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The World of Fundraising

The stock market sets new records more often than not these days, income inequality reaches unprecedented heights (and with it some people have even more guilt to expiate), and heaven knows that many wealthy alumni families have kids coming up to college age — so fundraising must be a snap now for colleges and universities, right? Well, for some schools it is:

USC Capital Campaign Comp.jpg

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that USC was original in its campaign strategy:

When the University of Southern California announced its current capital campaign back in 2011, the fundraising world gasped. The private research institution’s goal of $6 billion was unprecedented and audacious. Furthermore, the Campaign for USC broke the rules of big drives: It went public after a short quiet phase, with less than 20 percent of its goal raised, about half as much as in most campaigns.

The risks, however, are paying off. It’s on track to raise $6 billion 18 months ahead of schedule, says Albert Checcio, USC’s senior vice president for university advancement. More than 322,000 donors have contributed, and only a third are alumni. [Emphasis added]

And how is Phil Hanlon, our fundraiser-in-chief, doing? Word around campus is that the next capital campaign (“All in for Dartmouth” — ugh) will seek to raise $2.5 billion (the last campaign netted $1.3 billion). To be fair, that’s a pretty good goal: the College has 4,310 undergraduate students (6,381 including post-grads), whereas USC has 18,740 undergrads (42,469 including post-grads): USC raised 2.4 times what we are going to try to raise, even though their undergraduate student body is 4.3 times as large as ours.

That said, Phil will have been President for four years in June, and we are still in the (very) quiet phase of the long-bruited-about capital campaign. Are we looking to have $500 million in the kitty (20% of the goal) or a round $1.0 billion (40%) before the gala announcement? Either way, the kickoff has been a long time coming. Is there something wrong? Do big donors think that Phil is an uninspired and uninspiring leader? Do you?

Addendum: Calculating total giving in a campaign is an art in itself. Some schools count only giving to the campaign; others cumulate every lil’ thing, like the annual alumni fund and grants, etc. Needless to say, our Trustees have already decided to throw everything possible into the pot. Typical.

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