The University will refrain from starting a major fundraising campaign this year, taking a break after ending its most recent effort, which produced more than $550 million.
Funds from the Centuries Campaign, which ended this summer, helped build Kogan Plaza and fund scholarships and research initiatives, among other projects. The campaign began with a $300 million goal in 1996, but early success combined with a prosperous economy prompted the University to expand its goal to $500 million in 1998.
Although GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said there are “always plans for a new campaign,” it would not be ideal to ask people for money immediately after a large fundraising effort ends. He also said it is not preferable to launch a campaign considering the country’s current economic state.
“Generally, you try to be on a rising elevator,” Trachtenberg said. “You don’t want to go into an economy that’s flat or down. You want people who are rich and, more importantly, people who are feeling rich.”
He said GW’s next fundraising effort would “very likely” set its sights higher than $500 million.
Much of the money raised through the Centuries Campaign was donated by alumni and people outside the University community. Trachtenberg said receiving a donation does not necessarily mean GW has the money to spend.
“It’s not as if somebody drives up with a truck and puts the $552 million on your lawn,” he said. “The donations often come in the form of trusts, interest, wills, property, patents (and other deferred payments).”
“From 1821 until now, we’ve only had the two campaigns,” Trachtenberg said, referring to this latest campaign and a $50 million campaign conducted in the 1980s.
Vice President for Advancement Beverly Bond said prioritizing donations is not entirely the University’s decision.
“Almost every gift that we get is designated to a particular area,” she said. Larry King’s $1 million gift in 1999, for example, was intended for undergraduate and graduate students in the School of Media and Public Affairs. A $5 million gift by Ric and Dawn Duques, graduates of GW’s business school, was designated by the donors to go toward a new School of Business and Public Management building.
Bond said the University generally uses donations to improve academics and student life.
The spending of contributions is divided into three main categories – facilities, endowment and current operations. Twenty-nine percent, or $158 million, of the campaign goes to the University’s endowment. The endowment is the funds and property donated to an institution as a source of income.
Donations in the form of gifts, pledges and grants for current use totaled $354 million and goes toward school programs, “priority items,” financial aid and research.
Some donations, such as the $5 million for the SBPM building, come from alumni, but GW has historically lagged behind other competitive universities in attracting alumni donations. However, Bond said recent trends suggest that GW is now “high normative” in this area. Trachtenberg attributed the improvement in alumni donation rates to stronger links between the University and its alumni.
More than 3,000 people joined the GW community as donors since the beginning of the campaign.
“We’re in greater correspondence with our alumni now than we ever have been in the past,” Trachtenberg said.
He also suggested that a proactive approach to bolsters greater satisfaction among students.
“The way you build alumni is by addressing student agendas. Students who are happy become happy alumni,” he said.
A few leading donors for the Centuries Campaign included organizations such as Ford Motor Company, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Hyundai and Kia Motors. GW typically receives fewer contributions from corporations than its market basket schools primarily because of its location in a city dedicated to government and public service, rather than to corporations.
Trachtenberg’s most recent trips abroad, including his upcoming visit to the Middle East, may help bridge the gap in donations between GW and other institutions. But Trachtenberg said he would not call this series of trips “fundraising.”
“You’re either fundraising or you’re ‘friend-raising,'” he said. “This trip is more about friend-raising.”