University still $90 million short of fundraising goal

More than seven months into the fiscal year, the University has raised less than a third of its annual fundraising goal, a member of the Board of Trustess said last week.

The University has set lofty goals for fundraising this year, pledging to raise $131 million by June 30. But seven and a half months into the fiscal year – which began July 1 – the University has only raised $43 million, said Nelson Carbonell, the vice chairman of the board.

University President Steven Knapp said this was the first year the University set its fundraising goal “using a bottom-up process.” The process requires school deans to come up with their own goals for garnering donations, based on prospective donors and the amount of money each dean needs to tackle their school’s priorities. Those goals added together equal the $131 million figure, but Knapp said the goal-setting process was delayed because of the August departure of long-serving Vice President for Development Laurel Price Jones.

“That process started somewhat later in the fiscal year than originally planned, mainly because of the change that occurred in the leadership of Development and Alumni Relations,” Knapp said. Michael Morsberger, an experienced fundraiser who has worked with institutions like Duke Medicine, the University of Virginia and Johns Hopkins University, was named Wednesday as Price Jones’ replacement.

The $131 million goal is an elevated one for the University – about $47 million more than was raised last year, according to data from the Chronicle of Higher Education. In fiscal year 2009, the University raised about $84 million, the most raised in the University’s history. Knapp said, however, that the goals set for fundraising were not based off the amount of money raised in the past.

“Instead it is based on a fresh evaluation of our prospects and on the priorities of all the schools and of the University as a whole,” Knapp said. “There is no question that it is a challenging goal, but we must have aspirational goals if we are going to develop the capacity to bring in the resources we will need over time to advance the University to its next level of greatness.”

Another issue Knapp said could account for the lower-than-expected fundraising total is the sluggish economy, which hinders the amount of money potential donors have to donate.

“The current economic situation nationally has slowed the pace of fundraising at many institutions,” Knapp said. “But, again, we are doing something very new this year, engaging very broad participation in a new way.”

Scott Jaschik, an editor at Inside Higher Ed, an online publication with a focus on higher education, said it is not unusual that GW set a higher fundraising goal than 2009.

“Well, it’s an ambitious goal,” Jaschik said. “A lot of colleges didn’t have their best years in 2009 because of the economic mess and so there is this guarded opinion that they will do better this year.”

Jaschik added that the fact that GW has only raised $43 million so far might not be a concern, as a large share of the fundraising at major institutions “tends to come in a small number of large gifts.”

Jaschik said that if GW has already exhausted all of the large gifts they could receive this year, then that would be a sign for concern.

Patricia Danver, a spokeswoman for the Development Office, agreed with Jaschik, saying that the halfway point of the year is not necessarily the halfway point of a fundraising campaign.

“Our gift officers are all working diligently with their own prospects,” Danver said. “It’s an ongoing cultivation of the donors we have as well as attracting new donors. Gifts come as they are agreed upon.”

Danver said that soliciting large gifts is a process, and that large gifts take time to plan.

“Any one of them are at different stages,” Danver said of the gifts.

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