University News

U. plans for upcoming capital campaign

Impending campaign, set to launch next fall, will look to grow endowment and fund other priorities

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, December 5, 2014

Before the capital campaign starts, the Division of Advancement aims to create a “nucleus fund,” said Annual Fund Executive Director Tammie Ruda.

Over the past year, the administration has touted Brown’s 250th anniversary celebrations as opportunities to rally school spirit and reflect on the institution’s history. But the festivities also serve another purpose: an impetus for the whirlwind of fundraising and alum outreach currently underway for the University’s impending capital campaign, which will go public October 2015 in support of President Christina Paxson’s new strategic plan.

“We’re not finished in any way,” said Patricia Watson, senior vice president for advancement. “All the things we’ve done around the 250th — it has helped us reach people that have been disengaged for some reason.”

The celebrations, which began in the spring and last through May 2015, have been a “springboard” for introducing Paxson and her new strategic plan, Watson said. Increased connections with alums have also enabled the Division of Advancement to learn more about current alum interests and to “build the constituency” in preparation for the upcoming capital campaign, she added.

Capital campaigns are multi-year endeavors that fund specific University goals. Brown’s most recent iteration was the Campaign for Academic Enrichment, which was launched in July 2003 and ultimately raised a record-setting $1.61 billion by 2010. Like the upcoming campaign under Paxson, the Campaign for Academic Enrichment began a couple years into President Ruth Simmons’ tenure and followed an agenda-setting institutional blueprint — in that case, the Plan for Academic Enrichment.

Right now, the next campaign is in the silent phase, as it has not yet been publicly launched. Despite the name, “we are being anything but quiet about it,” Watson said.

‘Investing in people’
“On the 250th anniversary of its founding, Brown moves forward committed to the values that define and sustain our record of excellence and influence in the world,” Paxson wrote last year in the opening line of her strategic plan, Building on Distinction.

The capital campaign seeks principally to fulfill the aspirations of Paxson’s strategic plan, Watson said. The plan’s broad goals include integrating knowledge through multidisciplinary initiatives, improving faculty diversity, growing the faculty and student body and revitalizing the physical campus.

“The Building on Distinction plan is kind of an outline,” said Provost Vicki Colvin. “It gives a sense of the direction for the next decade.”

Watson said fundraising efforts will support four general areas: faculty, students, facilities and programs.

The strategic plan “far exceeds what we can raise money for,” she said, and efforts will focus on faculty and student support as top priorities. “It’s really about investing in people.”

For example, the Advancement Office is raising money to support endowed professorships, equipment for faculty and financial aid for students.

Facilities projects include a new engineering building — for which Watson said the necessary money has already been successfully raised — and a new performing arts building. And the campaign will also raise funds for student programs such as BrownConnect.

Watson said the plan’s initiatives have been “very well received” by donors and that there are already “a number of gift discussions underway.”

Loyal donors

Fundraising efforts over the next several years may have to balance a variety of institutional priorities, as the University seeks to raise money for both the Brown Annual Fund, which helps finance expenditures on a yearly basis, and solicits donations for both the endowment and major capital projects.

Raising money for the Annual Fund will remain a priority throughout the campaign, Watson said. “What we’re trying to do now is strike that balance” between raising money for the Annual Fund and for endowment, she added.

During the course of each year, the Advancement office collects four types of donations: current-use unrestricted gifts, restricted gifts, gifts to capital and gifts to endowment, said Beppie Huidekoper, executive vice president for finance and administration.

The University has complete discretion over how unrestricted money is directed, and these funds are spent within the fiscal year they are collected, Huidekoper said. But restricted gifts are not necessarily spent in the year they are received, and there are limitations on how or when the money is used. Gifts to capital support physical improvements to campus, she said.

The threshold for establishing a gift to endowment is $100,000, Watson said.

There are federal restrictions on how much of the endowment can be spent annually, Huidekoper added.

The Annual Fund comprises unrestricted gifts from alums who attended the University as undergraduates, Huidekoper said.

The Annual Fund’s “primary focus is to meet that unrestricted current use, year after year,” said Tammie Ruda, executive director of the Annual Fund.

“Unlike (at) many institutions, our Annual Fund is really a crucial set of dollars that are very much targeted for students and faculty,” said Nancy Fuld Neff ’76 P’06 P’14, co-chair of the Annual Fund. Neff said about 40 percent of the Annual Fund goes directly to financial aid, about 40 percent goes to faculty projects and about 20 percent funds student life initiatives and programs.

Ruda added that Annual Fund staffers ask donors to trust the University to spend the money efficiently. Requests for large donations are filtered through the Provost office to determine if the donation is aligned with the University’s highest priorities, she said.

‘It takes a campaign’

“One of the goals of this campaign is to increase the endowment,” Huidekoper said. Brown’s per-student endowment, at $325,000, lags many of its peers’. Princeton had a roughly $2 million per-student endowment in fiscal year 2014 — the largest in the Ivy League.

Though Brown’s endowment reached a record high of $3.2 billion for fiscal year 2014, it remains the lowest in the Ivy League.

The endowment supports about 17 percent of the current operating budget, Chief Investment Officer Joseph Dowling told The Herald in October.

Because faculty activities are financed largely by revenue from undergrad tuition, endowing more professorships will decrease pressure to raise tuition, Huidekoper said. The University “can’t entirely depend on undergrad students and increasing their fees” to fund its initiatives, she added.

“It takes a campaign,” Huidekoper said.

Any large gift to the endowment “would take several years … to start spinning off returns,” said Elizabeth Crabtree, assistant vice president for strategy and resource development.

Donors are “not especially compelled to help you reduce the budget deficit,” Crabtree said.

The operating budget deficit was $8.7 million for fiscal year 2014, and it is predicted to be about the same next year.

Taming the deficit may not be a high donor priority because “they’re really looking to help grow and spur innovation,” Crabtree said.

‘Full-court press’
With a new campaign on the horizon, administrators have begun preparations to finance Paxson’s strategic plan.

“When we have a campaign and the University really focuses on fundraising in a full-court press kind of way, we do raise more money,” Ruda said.

Simmons’ strategic plan was a “blueprint for the Boldly Brown campaign,” another name for the Campaign for Academic Enrichment, said Matthew Mallow ’64 P’92, the campaign’s national co-chair.

The campaign provided Brown with the money to implement need-blind admission for domestic first-year applicants. The campaign also amassed the resources for Simmons to add 100 new faculty members to the University, one of the plan’s crucial goals.

“When the financial crisis hit us, Brown’s endowment was not immune,” Mallow said, but the drop did not significantly affect the campaign. “The campaign was very well underway, and we had very generous and loyal supporters who continued to give at very generous rates.”

Advancement’s annual tracking data of alum giving suggests that though donors were hesitant to commit to multi-year pledges during the recession, donors continued to support the University during the recession and followed through on their pledges, Watson said.

Last fiscal year was the second-highest fundraising year on record at $224.6 million, Ruda said. During the current silent phase of the campaign, she said, Advancement raises money for the “nucleus fund” of the campaign.

Advancement hopes to raise between $750 million and $1 billion for the nucleus fund before next October, Watson said, adding that the fund often serves as an indicator of how successful the campaign will be going forward.

“If you have trouble raising a nucleus fund, that doesn’t bode well in the future,” Watson said.
Paxson, Watson, Colvin and Huidekoper are currently in the process of outlining how much money will be needed to finance every aspect of the plan, Watson said. No specific target has yet been set for the overall campaign, but pricing for specific projects should be determined by the end of the calendar year, Colvin said.

“I want a price tag on everything,” Colvin said. “I don’t want to guess, I really want the number.”
In the next parts of the quiet phase, Watson said administrators will work interactively to establish a significant donor base, calculate the cost of implementing the integrated themes of the plan, create a fundraising plan, develop a strategy and then begin mobilizing the volunteer base. They will also choose a marketing and communications firm to brand the campaign, she said.

“I think that Brown is going to be a very different place in a decade,” Colvin said. “But I have to know the exact path.”

  • Brown Alum

    In light of the fact that Boldly Brown, Brown’s most recent capital campaign, raised a nucleus fund of $575 million during its “quiet phase” that concluded in 2005, it is hugely disappointing to learn from Patricia Watson in this article that the bar for the nucleus fund for the next capital campaign set to launch in late 2015 is only $750 million. Indeed, it would be tantamount to a confession that Brown can’t compete with its peers.

    • Jason

      $750 million is a lot of money. We have to be realistic.

  • Brown Alum

    $575 million in 2005, adjusted for inflation, is equal to about $700 million in today’s dollars and will be equal to slightly more in late 2015, when the nucleus fund is targeted to have been fully raised. In other words, the goal of raising at least $750 million during the new campaign’s “quiet phase” barely keeps up with the dollars raised (adjusted for inflation) during Boldly Brown’s quiet phase. That’s called dreaming small, which is a recipe for mediocrity. Either Brown dreams big and finds a way to realize its big dreams, or its peers (who are raising increasingly large sums of money) will leave Brown eating their dust. It’s really that simple. It’s frankly shocking that the administration would float a dollar number like $750 as an acceptable quiet phase nucleus raise, given that it represents barely more (in inflated dollars) than Brown raised in the Boldly Brown quiet phase.

    • norse

      Why is everything a competition? Brown is not a research university like Penn or Duke or Chicago. We don’t have the same goals they do!

      • Boy, wouldn’t it be great if there were no competition? Brown would have no reason to change!

  • Paxson and the Brown Trustees have not made a case for raising more money.

    Paxson’s announced goals are to build more physical plant, increase the student population, and add more faculty.

    All three goals run exactly opposite of where higher education is going: less physical plant, fewer physical students on campus, and working more efficiently with more effective professors and teaching methods.

    Until Paxson and the Trustees make the case that their “raise and raise, spend and spend” policy is sustainable, none of us alumni should support Brown with another penny of our money.

    Like many who went to Brown, I also went to graduate school. Harvard makes a much better case for my donations than Brown does.

    Paxson–are you up to it? Can you prove that your strategies will ensure that Brown regains leadership and survives in the long term with your “throw more money at the current strategy” strategy?

    • rick131

      Why? Harvard is rolling in dough and your money means nothing. Giving to school with an already 35 billion endowment is s waste of time. Brown could actually use your money to change things.

      • Throwing money to support a failed strategy only….continues the path to failure.
        Harvard’s succeeding not because of its $35 billion endowment, but in spite of it.
        Unless and until Brown changes its strategy and moves from the 19th Century to the 21st Century, throwing money at Brown is like digging a hole and burying it.

        • singh

          john lonergan, where’ve you been? i almost missed you in these comment sections. your harebrained ideas make me laugh!

    • Brown Alum

      JL – I have to agree with rick131. The Harvard model seems equally antithetical to your proposed model for Brown. Harvard raises billions and uses the $ to expand their physical plant, increase the size of their student body and administration, perpetuate their dominance of Ivy football, basketball, squash, crew, etc. Respectfully, what makes Harvard more deserving than Brown of your donations? All of the Ivies operate on more/less the same model, inefficient and wasteful as that model may be. Donations to Brown would have an exponentially greater salutary effect on the institution than donations to Harvard. Donations to Harvard are like spit in the ocean, unless they are of a truly extraordinary nature.

      • Why throw money at Brown to pursue a failing strategy?

        • Brown Alum

          I understand that you believe Brown is pursuing a “failing strategy.” Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale, Penn, Columbia, et al. are all pursuing the same “failing strategy,” so the question posed to you was why send your $$ to Harvard, where it doubtless has zero effect on the institution? To use your phrase, Harvard could “dig a hole and bury” your contribution, and that would have the same effect as if your $$ actually reached their development office.

  • Lege Tush

    Thomas Tisch, you are known to be a mediocre CEO. That is why you keep supporting this mediocre university president. You sure enjoy each other’s mediocre company.