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Fundraising pipeline suffered in last year while numbers were strong

Though administrators have hailed the University's most recent fundraising numbers as a bright spot during an otherwise gloomy period, the approximately $180 million raised last year was partially attributable to expedited pledges from high-profile donors, according to Ronald Vanden Dorpel MA'71, senior vice president for University advancement.

The University called in many outstanding pledges — structured commitments that sometimes span several years — and ultimately reduced the number of pledges in the pipeline for this year, he said, though the accelerated gifts provided a boost to the fundraising total for the fiscal year 2009, which ended June 30.

Even with the slightly buoyed numbers, fundraising decreased by about 23 percent from the previous 12 months, when the University raised approximately $230 million, Vanden Dorpel said.

Before last year's financial crisis, which crippled the national economy and sheared $740 million from the University's endowment, Brown's average annual fundraising haul during the Campaign for Academic Enrichment was about $235 million, Vanden Dorpel said, adding that the diminished returns had reduced that average to $227 million.

"We had a very good year last year, and we weathered the recession," Vanden Dorpel said. "But we did hit a very strong headwind in raising pledges for next year."

It is too early to speculate about this year's expected fundraising total, he said, but some donors are expected to give less this year because they paid out their pledges in advance.
In May, the University surpassed the Campaign's goal of $1.4 billion 19 months before its official end point in December 2010, but Vanden Dorpel said he expects the financial climate to again diminish returns this year.

"Our cash may be somewhat down from last year," he said. "Fundraising is always a lagging indicator."

But he is confident the goals outlined by the University for next year will be met despite the economy, he added. 

"Our pledges were off last year," said Beppie Huidekoper, executive vice president for finance and administration. "We've got to make sure we keep having pledges."

Despite the deflated projections, Chancellor Thomas Tisch '76 said he was impressed with last year's numbers, adding that he expects the University to continue to weather the economic storm.

"I am assured that the initiatives and plans for the University are deeply engaging to the people who are at Brown," Tisch said. "That's the most exciting thing of all."

Though across-the-board fundraising may be taking a hit, the University has raised its goals for two fundraising initiatives. A campaign to raise money for financial aid — initially launched to generate $300 million — was increased to $400 million last October, and this year's goal for the Brown Annual Fund was increased to $36 million from last year's goal of $35 million.

Of the initial $300 million target for financial aid, $292 million has already been procured, said Richard Barker '57 P'03 P'05, who is spearheading the financial aid campaign. He is confident the University will meet the enlarged goal, he said, even though the original goal is still technically unmet.

"We have some work to do, but we also have some time," Barker said.

In addition to a better economic climate — which Barker said would foster an influx of donations to his campaign — the University is also planning a number of campaign dinners and events for potential donors, he said.

For example, Barker said, President Ruth Simmons will speak at an "all-constituents gathering" in San Francisco this week to tout the campaign. Simmons will also make appearances in Seattle, Houston, Dallas, Boston and India in the next year, he said.

Using these events as the driving force behind the increased campaign target, Barker said he hopes to tap into the passion donors felt last October, when the new goal was announced. And given the economic situation, Barker said it is increasingly necessary to support the students most affected by hard times.

"It's imperative," he said. "It's absolutely crucial to the mission of the University."

As for the Annual Fund — the University's general fundraising campaign for small donors, which supports its operating budget — this year's goal was increased to $36 million from nearly 33,000 donors, said Joan Sorensen '72 P'06 P'06, a member of the Corporation's board of trustees and one of the Annual Fund's chairs.

Last year, the Fund raised $35 million from 31,276 donors, though the goal had been to procure donations from 34,000 donors, she said. The total represented a 0.3 percent decrease in dollars from the previous year, she said, and a 6.6 percent decrease in donors.

Despite the downward trend, Sorensen said leaders behind the annual campaign are actively striving to meet the new goal through more targeted solicitations. She said the University is specifically looking to reunion groups for increased participation.

"We're going to try the same things" to secure funds, Sorensen said. "But we're going to be a little more aggressive this year."




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