With the latest $150 million donation, it’s easy to think the wealthy university’s wealthy alumni simply shower them with riches. Okay, they sort of do, but it’s important to look at such gifts in the context of the school’s powerful and strategic fundraising machine, as well as some national trends. Even a record-breaking donation is just the tip of the iceberg.
Legend has it that Kenneth Griffin first started trading stock options from his dorm room in Harvard, and now he wants to make good by giving $150 million to his alma mater. But who exactly is he, and what does he do with his substantial hedge fund wealth?
Forget the conventional wisdom the alums don't give big until they are getting on in years. Jaffray Woodriff, a fortysomething investment whiz, has made a big impact in a short time at the University of Virginia with a five-year run of grants totaling more than $30 million.
The A. Eugene Brockman Charitable Trust this week reneged on a $250 million donation in stock to Centre College hours before the deal closed. It would've more than doubled the small school's endowment. Before the floor fell out, Centre had planned to create 160 full economics, business and science scholarships with the money.
Guarantees of a successful university fundraising campaign are few, but there's no shortage of chaos factors that can set one back. One such hindrance, discussed by Kimberly Nehls, is the impact of mid-campaign shifts in presidential leadership. She published a study last year in Innovative Higher Education on this issue. To the best of Nehls' knowledge, this study is the first of its kind.
Whoever expounded the virtue of giving alms in private must not have been a big fan of receiving them. Last October, Columbia University's "The Giving Day" contest raised $6.9 million. Giving Day, a single-day and campus-wide fundraising, event featured an updated leaderboard that gave numbers on how much each of the university's 16 individual schools, pitted against each other, were receiving.
While Columbia University's recent Giving Day went swimmingly, this post discusses a 2010 incident at Dartmouth that demonstrates how, effective fundraising tools they may be, social media and peer pressure do come with warning labels.
In January of 2013, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg brought his total giving to Johns Hopkins to a record-breaking $1 billion with a $350 million gift to the university. $250 million of this most recent grant will fund new faculty positions in public health: "water resource sustainability, individualized health care delivery, global health, the science of learning and urban revitalization." The new programs place a special emphasis on interdisciplinary problem solving.
According to data from a voluntary survey of over 1,000 institutions nationwide, giving to universities increased overall by 2.3% from 2011 to 2012. While I would argue against CAE's new data as an occasion to get up and run naked through the streets, it does open up a few venues of interpretive discussion.
Nearly every professor hopes to be remembered on campus long after they have retired. Well, if you're a wealthy professor, one way to keep your reputation fresh on campus for decades to come is to endow something in your name.
We've covered a few other examples recently of faculty members making big gifts to the institutions where they teach. Both the large recent USC gifts by professors we wrote about here were for named initiatives — one a scholarship fund, the other a center.
An anonymous donor trusted an estate valued at $65 million, stipulation-free, to Purdue's School of Agriculture last month. Though it may not become available to the school for another few decades, this is the largest single donation Purdue has ever received. A fundraising official at the university sees the gift as part of a larger "increase in broad base support" for its new administration — former Indiana government Mitch Daniels took office as President of Purdue University in early 2013.
University of California at Berkeley is in financial trouble. Their government funding has grown ever more scant over the past decade, and they do not seem to share other schools' luck with generous alumni. UC Vice Chancellor John Wilton estimates that between 2003 and 2012, "state appropriations have been cut by 50% in nominal terms, or about 70% in real dollars." Philanthropy represents one of only a few alternative sources of funding.
Stanford University receives more private funding than any university in the country. The Cardinal loves philanthropy so much that they've got their own center dedicated to its study, but who are the kind deities responsible for loving them back and pumping the financial stuffings into our country's most popular private research institution? As usual, the biggest chunks of money come from individual donors.