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BrownTogether fundraising pace picks up

Campaign aims to hit two-thirds mark by spring, $3 billlion could be raised before 2022

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The University’s BrownTogether fundraising campaign has raised $1.88 billion to date toward its $3 billion goal, according to Senior Vice President for Advancement Sergio Gonzalez. The University hopes to surpass the two-thirds mark of its fundraising campaign by spring 2019, said President Christina Paxson P’19.

BrownTogether hit its halfway point point January 2018, The Herald previously reported. The campaign is slated to end in 2022, which is a conservative estimate considering the pace of fundraising, Paxson said.

The campaign has sped up in the past year: The University raised an all-time high of $389 million from donors in fiscal year 2018, up from the total of about $280 million raised in fiscal year 2017, Gonzalez said. Before the BrownTogether campaign began in 2015, the University raised about $200 million per year, Paxson said.

The BrownTogether campaign raises funds for four different categories: Education and Research, Campus and Community, Investing in People and the Brown Annual Fund. “These aren’t hard-and-fast buckets,” Paxson said. Some donations may be designated to support initiatives across multiple categories.

While the campaign’s $3 billion goal has not changed, the targets for each category shifted as a result of the revised operational plan that the University released in September, Gonzalez said. The goal for Investing in People decreased by $50 million, and the goal for Education and Research decreased by $100 million, while the goal for Campus and Community increased by $150 million.

The revised operational plan reflects changes in the University’s priorities since the original operational plan — which outlined a strategy for implementing the University’s strategic plan, Building on Distinction — was released in 2015, Paxson said. “While the high-level goals remain the same, there’s some fluidity in terms of exactly what we want to do,” she explained. Some new fundraising priorities that have emerged since the beginning of the BrownTogether campaign include the plan for a Performing Arts Center, the Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, the Brown Arts Initiative and the Data Science Initiative, she added.

The Education and Research category — which is now 86 percent of the way toward its $800 million goal — has seen the most significant progress in fundraising this year, Gonzalez said. He attributed the rapid spike in fundraising for this category to the $100 million gift the University received to support the Robert J. and Nancy D. Carney Institute for Brain Science last April, which was one of the largest donations in the University’s history, The Herald previously reported.

Fundraising for the Campus and Community category supports a number of construction projects across campus. The recently completed renovation of Friedman Hall and the ongoing construction of the Jonathan M. Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship are two of the major capital projects funded by the BrownTogether campaign, Paxson said. The plan to construct an integrated health and wellness center and dormitory at 450 Brook St. is a new fundraising priority for the Campus and Community category, she added.

The Investing in People category — which funds financial aid and endowed professorships — has been a major focus of fundraising this year, Paxson said. Though this is the only category that has not yet reached the halfway point of its fundraising goal, both Paxson and Gonzalez expressed confidence in the category’s progress.

Fundraising for the Investing in People category has gotten a boost from the Brown Promise initiative, which replaced all University loans in financial aid packages with grants this year, The Herald previously reported. “The Brown Promise is really resonating with our donor community,” Paxson said.

Financial aid is a strong driver of fundraising because “many of our donors received financial aid and support from the University,” Gonzalez said. “Our alums and our supporters want to be able to make that opportunity possible for everybody that has an interest in coming to Brown.”

Endowed professorships, which provide crucial funds for the University to recruit faculty and support their research, also resonate strongly among donors interested in sustaining the University’s teaching and research missions, Gonzalez said. The BrownTogether campaign has raised funds for 61 professorships so far, he added.

The University has also emphasized fundraising for the Annual Fund this year, Paxson said. Unlike the other categories of the campaign, all funds raised for the Annual Fund are spent as they come in, not invested in the endowment or in capital projects. The Annual Fund supports students directly by providing current-use funds for financial aid, BrownConnect internships and other student-centered priorities, Paxson explained.

“The Brown Annual Fund is really a jewel at Brown and in higher education,” Gonzalez said. “We have many donors that have given consecutively for many years.”

The Annual Fund grew substantially from $37.8 million in fiscal year 2017 to $45.8 million in fiscal year 2018, Paxson said. At the same time, the total number of donors to the Annual Fund jumped from 29,905 in fiscal year 2017 to 32,301 in fiscal year 2018, Gonzalez said. “That’s a terrific increase,” Paxson added.

The vast majority of donors to the BrownTogether campaign give gifts to the Annual Fund, said Teal Butterworth, director of next generation giving and engagement. The Annual Fund provides a critical avenue for engaging alums — especially young alums — with what’s happening on campus since its impact is immediate, she added.

Young alums who graduated in the past 14 years make up a growing share of all donors to the Annual Fund, Butterworth said. In fiscal year 2018, a total of 3,855 young alumni donors gave gifts to the Annual Fund amounting to an increase of 5 percent from the previous year. Altogether, these young alums gave a total of $1,162,572 to the Annual Fund last year, with an average donation of $301.58, she added.

“Young alumni giving is critically important to us,” Gonzalez said. “It sets them off hopefully on a lifetime of engagement and support back to Brown.”

For some students, engagement with the Annual Fund begins before they graduate, Butterworth said. The Student Philanthropy Council — a group of students that spreads awareness of the importance of giving back to the University through the Annual Fund — has been more active than ever before with 160 students participating last year, she said.

Student philanthropy and donations from young alum are vital to the future of the University, Paxson said. “Engaging people when they’re relatively young is what’s going to sustain Brown in the next campaign and the campaigns after that,” she added.

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