Some might think it would be difficult for Yale, with its $18 billion endowment, to solicit $3 billion more from alumni.
But from its ninth-floor perch atop the Connecticut Financial Center, situated next door to City Hall, the Yale Office of Development aims to meet that goal within the next five years. Complete with glossy booklets and snappy catchphrases, the development office is orchestrating the largest capital campaign in Yale’s history. But Yale is not alone: Yale Tomorrow is one of 27 ongoing multibillion dollar capital campaigns in higher education. While scale and strategy of these campaigns is similar, the Tomorrow campaign departs significantly from its peers and the three other campaigns Yale has undertaken in the last century.
Although many elite universities approach capital fundraising as if it were an arms race, Yale has seemingly remained above the fray, not allowing the $4 billion aspirations of schools such as Columbia, Cornell and Stanford Universities to influence its own $3 billion goal.
Yale Tomorrow emphasizes four major themes: The Arts, The College, The Sciences and The World. The campaign also encompasses each of Yale’s professional schools, the athletics department, professorships and financial aid. Vice President for Development Inge Reichenbach said deciding how the campaign’s spoils should be divided can be difficult, as the administration and different parts of the University differ over how much they need and how much the University can raise for each cause.
“With $3 billion, trying to get the last million into the right place is a real challenge,” Reichenbach said.
Yale had already raised $1.3 billion towards its goal by the time of the campaign’s public launch in September. During the silent phase of the campaign, which began in 2004, University officials secured five gifts of over $50 million. Two have been publicly announced — an anonymous $100 million gift to abolish tuition at the School of Music and $50 million from Maurice Greenberg to fund collaborations with China, including the undergraduate Greenberg Scholars program. Of the three remaining gifts, one was a $60 million donation from Edward Bass ’67 to build and renovate science facilities, one will fund the University’s international efforts, and the last is unrestricted.
Bass is a member of the Yale Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, and one of five co-chairs of the campaign.
Many who are closely involved with Yale Tomorrow said the fact that so much was raised during the silent phase bodes well for the campaign’s future.
“The campaign is off to a very good start,” said Len Baker ’64, a campaign co-chair and a member of the Yale Corporation. “Normally you think of campaigns wanting to raise one-third of the money in the silent phase. We ended up raising much more than that.”
‘Tomorrow, everything will be different’
The campaign’s main information booklet sports the simple, expensive aesthetic of a luxury car brochure. Among the 36 pages of high-resolution photographs, only one is of Yale. The rest, all taken by Yale graduates, are images of everyday life outside campus that will change in the future, presumably with Yale’s help. The pictures are punctuated by statements about the world’s future.
Ten other booklets, advertising the needs of different parts of the University, are given to potential donors when they express interest in those areas. Donors can also visit the online giving catalogue to see “giving opportunities” and their costs. A donor who spent a lot of time in a Cross Campus Library “weenie bin,” for example, can now put his name on one for $50,000.
University President Richard Levin said Yale Tomorrow differs from previous University campaigns and those at many other schools in its structure. Whereas in the past different schools and departments raised money relatively autonomously, all of the various units have agreed to leave large fundraising decisions up to the central administration, making the campaign more efficient and effective, he said.
“I think we have a very different view of what Yale means today,” Levin said. “We are much more universal.”
The University decided on its $3 billion goal after consulting with large donors and researching the alumni pool to evaluate how much money could be raised by 2011. The development office estimates that there are approximately 9,800 alumni who could donate $100,000 or more, Reichenbach said.
But as the campaign progresses, the fundraising effort will have to move down the giving pyramid to donors who can give at lower levels, she said. There are currently 123,000 living Yale alumni.
William Wright ’82, former chair of the Alumni Fund and a member of the campaign’s executive committee, said alumni volunteers evaluate the giving potential of their classmates and solicit donations.
“It really is very useful to turn to alums and ask them what their [classmates’] giving potential can be,” Wright said. “As you move down the level of giving, you need more alumni involvement because you need a bigger army of people to ask for gifts.”
Several close to the campaign said this broad alumni effort reaps more than merely monetary benefits.
“I think the thing about these campaigns is that they aren’t just about money,” Baker said. “It’s a real opportunity for Yale to reconnect to its community.”
In 1991, Levin’s predecessor, Benno Schmidt ’63 LAW ’66, began a $1.5 billion campaign that Levin inherited when he took office in 1993. The campaign, which ultimately raised $1.7 billion by 1997, was undertaken at a time when Yale was emerging from financial difficulties. After decades of poor facilities maintenance, University officials predicted that renovation expenses would run in the billions of dollars. While Yale Tomorrow’s goals focus mainly on expanding and establishing projects and programs, the campaign of the 1990s focused on “putting out fires,” administrators said.
The 1991 campaign had two notable predecessors. Yale’s first major fundraising effort — which was organized by a private firm and, like today’s campaign, used booklets and slogans to woo donors — took place during the economic boom of the 1920s following record gifts from the Harkness family, the Whitney family and John William Sterling during the previous decade. The campaign, which was called “Keep Yale Yale,” had a not-so-subtle anti-Semitic bent, said Gaddis Smith ’54, an emeritus professor of history and Yale historian.
In the early 1970s, then-president Kingman Brewster ’41 launched a $370 million campaign to raise Yale from its burgeoning economic woes. It was the first major fundraising effort since the 1920s and came after decades of poor financial support from alumni.
But Smith said the campaign faltered due to alumni anger at Brewster’s liberal policies and poor management of the endowment. Brewster is known to have remarked, “My resignation will be worth at least $100 million,” Smith said.
During the 1970s, Yale’s endowment lost 45 percent of its value, according to data from the Office of Institutional Research.
“[The campaign] really did fail — it was all smoke and mirrors,” Smith said. “Those were very difficult times.”
All but three members of the Ivy League — Harvard University, Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania — are in the public phases of billion-dollar campaigns. Even so, there are rumors of a Harvard campaign in the works, and Princeton spokeswoman Cass Cliatt said Princeton is considering launching a campaign of its own.
Yale’s campaign goal is larger than the respective $1.4 billion and $1.3 billion goals of Brown University and Dartmouth College, but it falls short of the $4 billion Cornell and Columbia campaigns and the $4.3 billion Stanford campaign. While Levin said Yale was in no way influenced by the other campaigns, Brown chose its $1.4 billion goal to outpace Dartmouth’s $1.3 billion campaign, said Ronald Vanden Dorpel, Brown’s senior vice president for university advancement. Vanden Dorpel worked in Yale’s development office from 1983 to 1987.
Like Yale, Brown received its largest commitments during the silent phase of its campaign. The top donation was a $100 million gift from vodka billionaire Sidney Frank to support undergraduate financial aid. Many large gifts also came from members of the Brown Corporation, which is composed of over 50 individuals in contrast to the Yale Corporation’s 19.
Unlike Yale, Vanden Dorpel said, Brown was only recently able to adopt fully need-blind admissions and is still seeking support for many vital university programs and professorships. Brown has raised around $800 million to date.
“For us, it’s a mixture of raising these gifts to underwrite existing programs and to start new ones,” he said. “Brown hasn’t been an institution that has raised a lot of money for endowed chairs, so we are working on that.”
Columbia’s capital campaign Web site listed increasing endowment support for students and faculty — in the forms of financial aid and faculty chairs — among its top priorities. The Web site also notes the greater financial resources of Princeton, Harvard, Stanford and Yale, and says Columbia needs to catch up in order to stay competitive. Columbia’s $5 billion endowment supports 24,000 students, while Yale’s $18 billion supports roughly 11,000.
Although universities give names and timelines to official capital campaigns, fundraising at large universities is continuous, Smith said.
“It’s a truism that in modern universities with big development offices, there’s always a campaign,” he said. “It never stops. It’s the very big money that makes the difference.”