Donations to the GW School of Business have shrunk by about one-third over the last year after a sudden firing of its dean and public clashes over a wide budget shortfall.
The school’s first decline since hiring Doug Guthrie in 2010 is a key loss just months away from the University’s largest-ever fundraising campaign.
Guthrie, who had boasted double-digit increases during most of his three-year tenure, was fired in August after he failed to resolve $13 million in overspending with top officials. But GW’s fundraising chief Michael Morsberger said gifts to the school will bounce back after it hires a permanent leader over the next few months. He said interim leaders – who can’t present long-term goals – often struggle to attract new donors.
“Generally, whenever there is a dean change, [fundraising] goes down. Even in the best case scenarios, it will go down, because your biggest donors want to meet with the dean. They want to know the vision, where are we going,” Morsberger said.
Professors attributed the decline to a mix of the school’s temporary leadership as well as its reputation for unstable finances that spread last fall.
Robin Tarpley, an associate professor of accounting, said Guthrie’s well-publicized firing, which was reported by national news outlets including the Washington Post, may have turned off potential donors.
“The news raised a lot of questions and probably could have brought doubt about what was going on in the school,” she said.
Sok-Hyon Kang, a professor of accountancy, said he hopes the dip is not a long-term trend because the school needs a larger endowment.
“We have an interim dean who probably may not have enough time to do it and because he’s not as experienced as the previous dean, he has not built up the relationships yet, so it will be difficult for him to raise funds,” Kang said.
At about $30 million, “the School’s current endowment is significantly smaller than that of business schools found in the 11-20 tier of the U.S. News & World Rankings, the tier in which GWSB aspires,” Guthrie wrote in a 2011 report. He set the goal of raising nearly $100 million between 2011 and 2018.
School leaders typically have to build personal relationships with potential donors before bringing in large gifts.
Deans are expected to spend about 50 percent of their time fundraising, a responsibility that remains “a big part of the job” of the interim deans, Morsberger said.
Christopher Kayes, the school’s interim dean, said he spends time on fundraising while also staying “focused on the larger picture” of his role.
“We continue to have strong support from our Board of Advisers, and I regularly meet individuals who are investing time and money to better the school. I am delighted with the continued support for the school of business, from alumni, parents and corporate partners,” Kayes said in an email.
Mitch Blaser, chair of the school’s Board of Advisers, said the dip was expected and that the board had maintained its 100 percent donor track record.
“It is hard to get a true reading of any trend when picking a ‘point in time’ review,” he said in an email.
Still, both the law and business schools fundraising lost momentum under a temporary leader.
Fundraising dipped by 43 percent under the interim law school dean, Gregory Maggs, though he had a 20-year history at the school and was well known among donors.
GW relies on the business, law and medical schools to bring in $10 million to $15 million in donations each year.
Despite the decline in gifts, Morsberger praised both Kayes and Maggs for their efforts to engage with donors and alumni.
“When you meet them – if you’re an alum who’s considering a big gift, who’s wondering what’s going on – you meet those two people and you realize we’re in good hands,” he said.
-Chloe Sorvino and Brianna Gurciullo contributed to this report.