Harvard Launches $6.5 Billion Fundraising Campaign
Alumni Enthusiasm Inspires Harvard to Begin Campaign
Published: Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 22:09
Last Saturday, Harvard University launched a $6.5 billion fundraising campaign, making it the biggest fundraiser ever in higher education.
If Harvard is successful in reaching its target amount, the campaign will surpass Stanford University’s five-year $6.2 billion campaign that ended last year, as well as the campaigns by Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania, which completed multiyear fundraising campaigns that procured $3.9 billion and $3.5 billion, respectively. Harvard hopes to reach its fundraising goal by 2018. Harvard’s last significant capital campaign ended in 1999, and raised $2.6 billion.
The funds will go toward Harvard’s mission to “support the structures and modes of academic inquiry,” said Harvard President Drew Faust before an audience of university officials, alumni, and donors. Some of Harvard’s main goals include expanding the university’s Allston campus, increasing financial aid, pioneering new approaches to teaching and learning, funding neuroscience and stem-cell research, and renovating undergraduate housing.
Faust also explained that the Harvard Campaign comes at a time when higher education is facing many challenges, and the increasingly complex and pressing needs of the world. She justifies that the fundraising will foster and support building blocks for the future that are “essential to our enduring strength.”
The university will allocate 45 percent of the money raised to supporting teaching and research, 25 percent to financial aid and student services, 20 percent to capital improvements, and 10 percent to foster collaborations and other initiatives. Harvard also aims to expand its presence on the world stage, which would include a project to develop a conference and research center in Shanghai, China.
The campaign unofficially and quietly began two years ago, and has already raised $2.8 billion in gifts and pledges from over 90,000 donors. According to Tamara Rogers, Harvard’s vice president for alumni affairs and development, and leader of the campaign, the country’s financial problems put a slight hold on plans for the campaign. In 2009, Harvard’s endowment lost 27.3 percent during the financial crisis and was forced to suspend its campus expansion and put the construction of a $1 billion science complex on hold. Donor and alumni enthusiasm, however, indicated that now was a good time to proceed with the plan.
“Campaigns cover a period of years, so one can’t control during that entire period of years what economic circumstances might be like,” Rogers said in The Huffington Post. “One takes advantage of opportunity, enthusiasm, good planning, and that’s what we’ve done.”
As of the end of the last fiscal year, Harvard’s investment portfolio was worth roughly $30.7 billion—about the size of the annual GDP of the entire nation of Latvia—and helped the school maintain its No. 1 ranking in the list of the richest universities by financial endowment. For a university that is already the wealthiest in the country, why would people give money to Harvard and not to another cause? Harvard Provost Alan Garber emphasizes Harvard’s role in helping solve the world’s problems, “ranging from educational innovation to scientific breakthroughs that have changed the world.”
One specific priority of the Harvard Campaign is the expansion of Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, which continues to grow after having become its own school in 2008. As not to compete with its Cambridge neighbor, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard’s engineering school is different in that its students are also involved in a liberal arts environment, something that Harvard hopes to develop further with more funding.
Harvard unveiled its campaign at an event featuring Bill Gates, who spent three years at the university in the 1970s before dropping out to co-found Microsoft Corp. Gates did not say whether he intends to donate to the Harvard Campaign.