Campaign nears $1 billion ahead of schedule

Friday, March 23, 2007

Now more than halfway to completion, the Campaign for Academic Enrichment is ahead of pace. As of March 21, the campaign had raised over $960 million – 68 percent of its $1.4 billion goal – with 54 percent of the campaign time elapsed.

Campaign officials say they are pleased with the results so far and hope to surpass $1 billion in commitments by the end of June. That is a goal they “fully expect” to reach, Neil Steinberg ’75, vice president for development and campaign director, told The Herald, adding that they also “fully expect to meet and exceed” the campaign’s ultimate $1.4 billion goal.

“There’s nothing automatic about this stuff,” Steinberg said. “But the momentum is good.”

The Campaign for Academic Enrichment – publicized under the tagline “Boldly Brown” – went public in October 2005 after a two-year “quiet phase” during which the University raised a “nucleus fund” of $575 million from key donors. The seven-year campaign currently aims to raise at least $660 million to bolster Brown’s endowment, $540 million for immediate support and $200 million for facilities projects by the end of 2010.

Donors to the campaign are encouraged to give money for a series of specific projects laid out in a “Table of Needs” designed to reflect the objectives of President Ruth Simmons’ Plan for Academic Enrichment.

Ronald Vanden Dorpel, senior vice president for University advancement, said he and his staff are “enormously pleased” with the campaign’s progress to date. The health of the campaign is indicated not only by the total sum raised, he said, but also by the fact that donor participation has met goals across a range of gift sizes – from contributions of $10,000 to $50 million or more.

The campaign was boosted in January by a $100 million donation that renamed the Medical School in honor of millionaire entrepreneur Warren Alpert and tied with a 2004 gift from liquor magnate Sidney Frank ’42 for the largest gift in Brown’s history. Alpert’s gift “leapfrogged the campaign,” Steinberg said, and prompted development officials to raise their goal for the end of this fiscal year in June from $940 million to an even billion.

Although the campaign has now passed its halfway point and will soon enter its fifth year, Vanden Dorpel said that does not necessarily mean interest will flag or that excitement generated by the beginning of the campaign will wear off.

“The latter half of campaigns can be different from the first half, but it’s largely dependent – at least in my experience – on the state of the economy more than it is the prospect pool,” Vanden Dorpel said.

He added that regional campaign kickoffs throughout the United States will continue through the end of this year, and that some international kickoffs may take place even later.

“If we see the excitement waning there are all sorts of things we can do to recreate it,” Vanden Dorpel said, such as a series of “mid-campaign presentations.”

Vanden Dorpel attributed the campaign’s progress in part to Brown’s success in explaining to donors the vision laid out in the Plan for Academic Enrichment.

“The Plan for Academic Enrichment is very clear to our alumni and friends, so they can see how the campaign priorities relate to the plan,” he said.

Rae Goldsmith, vice president of communications and marketing for the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, a professional organization for education fundraisers, agreed that communicating goals is one strength of Brown’s campaign.

“They’ve done a really good job defining what the institutional goals and needs are,” Goldsmith said, adding that a university’s failure to do so can often result in “confusion” among donors. “They’ve done an especially good job laying this out.”

“The goal with a campaign is always to lay out institutional need and identify supporters who are interested in supporting that need,” she added.

As a result, Steinberg and Vanden Dorpel said, donor priorities have mostly lined up with those laid out by University officials in the Table of Needs, which outlines both the University’s top priorities and others it would be willing to pursue with donor support. Progress has been largely consistent across the three major areas the University has targeted, they added.

Some recently announced building projects – such as the planned renovation of Faunce House and a new building at the Med School – were not among the core projects the University included in its $200 million goal for facilities fundraising, but Steinberg said the table was always meant to be “a living and breathing document.”

Richard Spies, executive vice president for planning and senior adviser to the president, said the University’s priorities are “evolving” as the campaign progresses, adding that the University had always intended to “leave a little extra flexibility” for additional building projects beyond the core set in its planning.

Spies also said the University has been banking to a certain extent on the success of the campaign by continuing to implement the Plan for Academic Enrichment “even now while trying to raise the money.”

“We are assuming some level of success,” Spies said. “The evidence to date is very encouraging, and we’re pushing ahead with the actual implementation of (the Plan for Academic Enrichment) based on that.”

Spies said that, though returns from the campaign have been an important source of “good news” for the budget in recent years, the University has also had to deal with multimillion dollar expenses incurred as a result of rising energy costs and fire code upgrades. The University has also spent aggressively to implement such key components of the Plan for Academic Enrichment as need-blind admissions and increasing the size of the faculty.

The University’s ability to expand the scope of the Plan for Academic Enrichment to include an internationalization initiative in spite of recent higher operating costs, as it did last fall, is thanks to the continuing momentum of the campaign, Spies said.

But, he added, the University will be able to adjust if returns from the campaign decline in the second half of the seven-year effort.

“We have all kinds of fallback provisions and contingency plans if in fact it doesn’t work out over the next few years the way we’ve expected,” Spies said. Those may include slowing the addition of new faculty positions, scaling back or deferring capital projects, or in an extreme situation “shutting down” implementation of the Plan for Academic Enrichment for a period of time, he said.

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