Fundraising target in sight

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Photo by Henry Ehrenberg.

The University is closing in on its fundraising target for Yale’s two new residential colleges.

Yale is about halfway to closing its remaining $80 million funding gap for the new residential colleges after receiving a $250 million gift from Charles Johnson ’54 in October, said University President Peter Salovey. All in all, the University has put the price tag for the donor-funded colleges at $500 million. Work on the colleges, slated to begin in early 2015, will not start until the goal is met.

The University still hopes to complete its fundraising goal by the end of the University’s fiscal year on June 30 — a mark that was first set in October after Johnson’s donation. Salovey said he remains optimistic that the University can meet the self-imposed deadline.

“Alumni are incredibly enthusiastic about more Yale students, and so it is great fun to speak with them about the new colleges,” said Yale College Dean Mary Miller. “This long-planned expansion is something that alumni have generally gotten behind.”

Since the Johnson gift, Salovey has kept an intensive fundraising schedule in pursuit of funding Yale’s most ambitious capital project in a generation. The fundraising for the colleges has come in addition to an already significant task: maintaining the relationships former University President Richard Levin, considered a master fundraiser, built with major donors.

Salovey’s fundraising efforts consist primarily of one-on-one meetings with donors, as opposed to the high-figure events that are often associated with political fundraising. While gift officers in the Office of Development build relationships with donors, Salovey frequently meets with individuals considering giving major gifts — typically upwards of $1 million — to the University.

“President Salovey has done an excellent job meeting many generous and involved alumni, parents and friends,” said University Vice President for Development Joan O’Neill. “They are excited to hear from him about the University.”

In November, Salovey said fundraising meetings set up by the Office of Development and meetings scheduled through the Yale Alumni Association are the “dominant” reasons he travels off campus.

In recent trips off campus, the new colleges have been a particular focus.

“When I’ve been away from campus, fundraising for the residential colleges [has been] the most significant way in which I’m using my time,” Salovey said.

His schedule has included several trips to fundraising hot spots New York City and Fairfield County, Conn., in addition to San Francisco and other locations on the West Coast.

Many of the recent gifts to fund the colleges have fallen in the $1 million to $5 million range, O’Neill said.

Both Salovey and O’Neill said that the Johnson gift, the largest in University history, spurred other donors to give to the colleges. Only hours after the announcement of the Johnson gift in October, another donor gave $5 million to the residential college project.

“The announcement gave people a clear sense that we have a very targeted goal to raise in order to move forward on the colleges, so it set a real financial target for the alumni,” O’Neill said several weeks after the Johnson gift.“That’s very motivational, [it] gives [the alumni] a clear sense of how they can make a difference.”

Nancy Better ’84, who frequently volunteers for the University, said she believes that constructing the new colleges and opening Yale up to hundreds of additional students would be a major benefit to the University.

O’Neill said her office has continued to hear from donors “inspired” by Johnson’s gift. She added that her office saw a major uptick in gifts to the University shortly before the end of the tax year on Dec. 31. However, she added, many of the major gifts for the colleges have come in the form of pledges, which are commitments paid out over time.

Despite the emphasis both Salovey and the Office of Development are placing on the new colleges, long-standing fundraising priorities do not appear to have fallen by the wayside. Miller said that when soliciting funds for the University, she has focused on financial aid.

“Just ask the Senior Class Gift Committee: I asked them to put financial aid first,” Miller said. “Guaranteeing need-blind financial aid is bedrock.”

The website of the Office of Development lists the components of the colleges that donors can support. The projects range from a bicycle repair shop, priced at $150,000, to the west tower of the north college for $100 million.

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