Further gifts key for SOM

The School of Management received an unprecedented number of alumni donations equaling or exceeding $1 million during the five-year Yale Tomorrow capital campaign. But the fundraising drive ended on June 30, 2011, and now the school’s administrators are questioning how they can maintain the donations that are crucial to developing SOM initiatives and balancing the budget.

While SOM has historically received its largest donations from graduates of other parts of the University, the school brought in 18 gifts of $1 million or more during Management Tomorrow, SOM’s component of the recent campaign. Before the University-wide fundraising effort, SOM had been given just one donation of this magnitude from one of its alumni in its 38-year history. As the entire University reevaluates its fundraising approach in the wake of Yale Tomorrow, the efforts will be particularly important at SOM, which relies on successful fundraising for regular operations and future initiatives, said Joel Getz, the school’s senior associate dean for development and alumni relations.

“Any campaign gives a certain boost or jolt, but we hope to continue with that momentum,” Getz said. “It would be the mark of a successful campaign if we were able … to raise the sights of our alumni and friends.”

Though SOM’s program offerings are comparable to those at schools like Harvard Business School and the Wharton School of Business, Getz said SOM is a much smaller school, which makes fundraising critical to its development. SOM faces “many of the same bills” as larger business schools, Getz said, but has fewer than 500 tuition-paying students. He noted that donations are crucial to balancing the school’s budget and funding development initiatives, such the construction of the new SOM campus.

Getz said he “could not understate” SOM’s need for donations.

“While we have a great endowment, our operating financial model is not as strong as it needs to be and part of that is due to the scale and scope of the school,” he said. “We’re a very small school and you still have to teach in a broad range of disciplines.”

University Vice President for Development Inge Reichenbach, who oversees fundraising efforts across Yale, said she expects donations to be slower than usual this year as her office “turns the battleship around” and looks into initiatives after Yale Tomorrow. But even as the University charts a new fundraising course, Reichbach said she does not expect gifts from SOM alumni to sink back to their pre-campaign levels.

The SOM’s largest initiatives have been possible thus far because of gifts from alumni of other parts of the University, she said. The construction of the new campus, for instance, was funded by a $50 million donation from Yale College graduate Edward Evans ’64.

Before Yale Tomorrow, SOM had received few donations in the millions from its own alumni largely because the donor base of the relatively-young school is still developing, Reichenbach said.

“[SOM] started out as a school that was going to teach business to people who wanted to go into NGOs or philanthropic endeavors,” Reichenbach said. “So initially there were not as many high-earning salaries in this group.”

SOM currently has 6,300 alumni, Getz said, and he projects that the alumni base will eventually stabilize at 15,000. As the alumni base grows, Getz said he expects to see more SOM graduates make substantial donations, though he added that 73 percent of SOM donated during Yale Tomorrow — among the highest across Yale’s schools. The school’s annual rate of giving has historically hovered just under 50 percent, Getz said, while many peer business schools often see yearly participation rates below 20 percent.

Moving forward, Getz said he is confident that SOM Dean Edward Snyder, who took office this fall, will help bolster fundraising efforts. Before coming to Yale, Snyder served as dean of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, where he helped secure a $300 million donation — the largest in business school history. University President Richard Levin said Snyder’s demonstrated ability as a fundraiser was “one of many factors” that led to his appointment.

Snyder said he expects alumni will donate more as they see the school expanding and successfully pursuing new initiatives.

Reichenbach said the Provost’s Office is currently holding discussions with administrators and program directors across the University to determine the needs of units over the next five years.

Management Tomorrow brought in a total of $252 million in donations.

Tapley Stephenson contributed reporting.

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