Fundraising to focus on aid, faculty

Yale, struggling to raise funds this year, will revamp its fundraising strategy to encourage donors to make more gifts that directly support students and teachers instead of construction projects.

Vice President for Development Inge Reichenbach said in an interview on Monday that her office will primarily solicit gifts to fund student scholarships and faculty professorships as the recession continues. She said she hopes that this new approach will help Yale raise money even at a time when its donors are hurting financially and have been hesitant to make any major gifts to the University.

“Everybody can relate to why we need financial aid, especially now,” Reichenbach said. “It’s an easier sell.”

Still, this new strategy will make it more difficult for Yale to move forward with its ambitious campus construction program. Reichenbach said some projects, like the expansion of the Yale University Art Gallery and the new School of Management campus, will continue to be fundraising priorities.

But her office has come to terms with the fact that raising $500 million for the two new residential colleges in just two years will not be possible.

While Yale has raised $157.5 million for the new colleges so far, donors this year have been reluctant to support the project. Around $140 million of that sum, after all, was raised as part of a “nucleus fund” last summer, with one “very large” gift making up the majority of the pool.

So, to spur increased giving, Reichenbach and her associates will ask donors to commit anywhere from $100,000 to hundreds of millions of dollars for financial aid. Professorships typically cost $3 million to $5 million. (Professorships and scholarships can be named after donors, but do not have to be. Donors often name professorships, in particular, after famous professors; hence the Vincent J. Scully professorship in the History of Art Department.)

The decision to focus primarily on raising funds for people and not buildings is consistent with the approach other universities are taking right now, said Rae Goldsmith, a vice president of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

“We are seeing more and more schools shifting their emphasis to financial aid especially,” Goldsmith said. “It’s something that donors can really connect with.”

Stanford University, for one, has made what it calls “investing in the best and brightest” a hallmark of its $4.5 billion capital campaign. Stanford even matches some gifts, so that a $5 million professorship only costs $2.5 million for the donor.

At Yale, University President Richard Levin said, the University works closely with donors to make sure that restrictions placed on scholarship and professorship gifts are not too stringent.

For instance, a donor giving a professorship would be encouraged “to accept broad field definitions,” meaning the University would prefer a gift for a humanities professorship than for a professorship in Irish poetry.

At this point, though, the University may not want to turn away too many gifts. So far this year, Yale has raised $318.6 million, including a $50 million gift for a new global affairs institute. That leaves $82.4 million left to be raised in the months of May and June if the University is to reach its $400 million goal for the fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Nevertheless, with $2.616 billion raised for the Yale Tomorrow capital campaign, Reichenbach said the University remains 10 percent ahead of schedule to reach its $3.5 billion campaign goal by June 30, 2011.

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