That Yale secured enough donations to continue with its renovation of the Art Gallery’s facilities came as a lone bright spot after a difficult year for the University’s fundraisers.

Yale raked in gifts totaling about $439 million between July 1 of last year and June 30 of this year, Vice President for Development Inge Reichenbach said this week. That number fell far short of the roughly $600 million Yale had raised the year before and short of the more than $550 million Yale had brought in on average in each year since 2004, when the silent phase of its capital campaign, Yale Tomorrow, began.

Reichenbach said it is unlikely that things will get better this year, the fourth since the official launch of the campaign.

“The fourth year, which we are entering now, is always hard,” she said. “It’s been going on so long that people forget about it and it’s hard to maintain momentum.”

That’s the case even in good economic times. So it’s easy to understand why Reichenbach said “it’ll be an interesting year.” Yale, after all, is trying to complete its campaign in the middle of a recession.

Still, the University has something of a cushion built up from the boom years. All told, Yale has raised gifts and pledges worth more than $2.7 billion in the Yale Tomorrow campaign. That puts the effort more than 10 percent ahead of schedule in its bid to raise $3.5 billion by June 30, 2011.

Indeed, Reichenbach explained, Yale needs to raise just $380 million in each of the next two years to hit that target. “From that perspective and given the track record we are very confident we’ll make it,” she said.

Even still, Yale is tweaking its fundraising approach to try and entice more gifts sooner. As the News reported in the spring, the University is now primarily soliciting gifts to endow professorships and scholarships instead of funding construction projects.

Several major gifts in those areas have been made in the last few months, including a donation from Ralph Lauren to establish a professorship in honor of Charles Gwathmey ARC ’62, who died in August just a year after completing a major building project on Yale’s campus.

An adviser to the King of Morocco will be on campus later this month to meet with faculty and administrators and discuss a potential gift, Reichenbach said.

Across the board, University President Richard Levin said, donors remain eager to speak with the University about their interests and Yale’s needs.

“We still have conversations going with donors who could potentially give $50 million or more,” he said, adding that another large gift like the $50 million donation that came in last year to create the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs would help the fundraising efforts tremendously.

But the gift from the Jacksons was the largest donation Yale received last year and, even though the University is still soliciting a $100 million donation for the new School of Management campus, nothing is easy to come by right now.

After all, Reichenbach said, the economy is so bad that Yale recently had to write off a pledge from a company that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. She declined to name the company.