Firm: University could fundraise $1 billion

GW has the potential to raise $1 billion within the next seven to eight years, an outside consulting firm hired by the University found.

Increasing fundraising dollars is a top priority for the University, but officials backed away from the estimate, making it clear the projection was made by an outside firm, and is not an official University goal.

The projection, based on current giving levels, amounts to a $50 million per year increase in fundraising dollars, more than the $10 million increase the University saw last year.

Last fiscal year the University raised $94 million. At that giving rate, the University would fundraise $658 million within seven years, $342 million less than the consulting firm’s $1 billion estimate.

Grenzebach Glier and Associates said their $1 billion estimate is based on the fact that the University has the donor prospects to vastly improve fundraising, Steven S. Ross, the chair of the development and alumni committee announced at last month’s Board of Trustees meeting.

Increasing fundraising dollars is one of University President Steven Knapp’s biggest initiatives at the University, and was one of the deciding factors for Knapp’s hire in 2007.

Since Knapp began at the University, fundraising has slowly but steadily increased, and with the hiring of Michael Morsberger – the vice president of development and alumni relations and fundraising heavyweight began his tenure this spring – it is likely the University will see at least some increase in fundraising.

In response to the consulting firm’s estimate, Morsberger said he is cautiously optimistic, saying he is confident the University can significantly increase its fundraising within the next decade and be on par with the country’s top fundraising institutions.

“There is no doubt that GW is poised to join the ranks of the nation’s most elite and admired universities,” Morsberger said in an e-mail.

Morsberger – who was brought on as the development vice president earlier this year after running $500 million and $3 billion campaigns at the University of Virginia – cautioned that external factors like the economy will influence whether the projection is achieved.

He added that no official fundraising goal for the 2011 fiscal year – which runs from July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011 – has been set, nor have any longer-term goals been made, but added that fundraising at GW is stronger than it was at this same time last year.

“Annual giving, which is often a bellwether for overall fundraising, looks very good to date,” Morsberger said.

While the University does not release current fundraising figures to the public, annual gifts are up 27 percent compared to this time last year, including increases in contributions from alumni, parents, faculty and staff. Morsberger said he also expects a record number of participants in the 2011 Senior Class Gift Campaign, which already has 90 percent more donors than it did at this time last year.

“People want to help. They support our collective vision and are anxious to be full partners in the decade of transformation which lies ahead,” Morsberger said.

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