Capital campaign in home stretch

As the June 2011 deadline approaches for Yale Tomorrow, Yale’s five-year, $3.5 billion fundraising campaign, even its name is changing to reflect the Office of Development’s sense of urgency to reach its goal: “Yale Tomorrow” has been renamed “Yale Tomorrow, 6/30/11.”

With one year left to go for the campaign — which began in September 2006 and will soon hit the $3 billion mark — Yale will need help from the recovering economy to meet the campaign goal by next summer. The Office of Development had raised $2.93 billion by the end of March and now is counting on economic recovery to complete fundraising in key areas, including the construction of two new residential colleges, the Yale Biology Building and Science Hill renovations. In addition, Yale is asking donors to write more flexibility into their donation agreements so that administrators have more leeway to use gifts.

The University is slightly ahead of schedule to meet its goal of $3.5 billion by June 2011, Vice President for Development Inge Reichenbach said. But to stay at that rate, University President Richard Levin said, Yale will need some help from the economy.

“We’ll have to work very hard in the last year to complete the campaign,” Levin said last week. “The rate will require some pickup in rate of giving from a post-financial crisis environment.”

Fundraising campaigns historically receive a boost in their last year, Reichenbach added.

“We’re really making sure that people are excited and knowing if they haven’t made a gift yet, they can,” Reichenbach said.

Of the four main priorities for which administrators hoped to raise gifts when the campaign began — the arts, the sciences, Yale College and the University’s international initiatives — only fundraising for international goals is complete, Levin said.

The School of Drama is still awaiting more contributions, while development officials are also still looking to raise gifts for the expansion of the financial aid budget, the long-delayed construction on the Yale Biology Building and Science Hill renovations, and construction of the two new residential colleges.

The Yale Biology Building is new on the list of priorities: Administrators decided to make it a focus of the campaign’s final year within the past six weeks, Reichenbach said.

Beyond the immediate goals of Yale Tomorrow, though, University officials are also trying to solve what has become a pressing problem for Yale and other universities as they attempt to put old restricted gifts toward new uses. Though the Office of Development has always encouraged donors to give unrestricted funds, or money that the University can use for any purpose, many prefer to attach certain conditions to their donations. The annual fund, which is made up of unrestricted gifts that support some of Yale’s core needs, has raised $1 million over last year, Reichenbach said.

For the past five years, Reichenbach said, development officials have asked donors to give Yale more leeway— a concern that has become even more urgent as Yale faces a budget shortfall. Instead of specifying that an endowed professorship needs to be held by an Indonesian studies scholar, for example, donors could require Yale to fill the post with a professor of Southeast Asian studies, Deputy Provost Charles Long said.

“We need to ask the question, ‘Three hundred years from now, will this be a viable field?’ ” Long said. “We wouldn’t want to ever have a huge amount of money based on a particular theme that might go out of fashion.”

Long said the Office of Development now asks donors to insert a standard clause into donation agreements specifying that the University can review the terms of the gift once officials determine it has become impractical for its current purpose. Some donors may ask to be consulted again at that time, while others give permission for the Yale Corporation to shift the money to a similar or closely related use.

Though many universities are asking donors for more flexibility, they must be careful not to alienate donors who must trust the institutions they support to use their gifts responsibly, said Rae Goldsmith, a vice president of the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, a nonprofit dedicated to marketing and fundraising for educational institutions.

But Reichenbach said donors have been responsive so far.

“Our donors have been very receptive to the idea, recognizing the challenge, and they’d rather have a decision today while they’re still alive rather than 100 years from now,” Reichenbach said.

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