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New donations to U. fell by a quarter last year

Campaign exceeds expectations four months before end

Financial gifts and pledges to the University fell nearly 25 percent last year, even as the University's ambitious fundraising campaign continues to outperform expectations.

New gifts and pledges fell from $180 million to $135.3 million in the last fiscal year. Total cash gifts fell 14 percent, from $193.4 million to $167 million.

But despite the continued slide in fundraising figures, optimistic administrators have increased the total goal for the Campaign for Academic Enrichment — President Ruth Simmons' $1.4 billion fundraising effort that launched in 2002 — to $1.6 billion, four months before it is slated to end Dec. 31. The campaign's total currently stands at $1.54 billion.    

The fundraising drop-off has hindered the campaign, which was on pace 18 months ago to top off at $1.7 billion, said Ronald Vanden Dorpel MA'71, who was senior vice president for University advancement before he retired on June 30.

"Our pledges were substantially down because of the economy," he said. "People weren't willing to commit large amounts."

The downward trend in fundraising began in fiscal year 2009, when new gifts and pledges fell nearly 22 percent, from $230 million to $180 million, Vanden Dorpel said.

Though administrators at the time called the total for 2009 a success, the figure was somewhat buoyed because the University expedited some outstanding pledges from high-profile donors, Vanden Dorpel said. By calling in outstanding pledges — arranged contribution commitments that can cover several years — the University reduced the number of pledges in the pipeline for this year, Vanden Dorpel told The Herald last October.

Before the recent financial crisis, which caused the University's endowment to lose $740 million and stymied fundraising efforts at universities across the country, Brown averaged an annual draw of $235 million during the campaign.

Though the endowment received $55 million in new gifts — up from $44 million last year — the gifts did not significantly affect the total because the annual draw on the endowment was increased to 6.5 percent, said Beppie Huidekoper, executive vice president for finance and administration.

Though exact figures for the endowment are not yet available, Huidekoper said, the University still has a long way to go until the endowment returns to its pre-2009 total of $2.8 billion.

"It's still a very shaky market," she said. "We're not out of the woods yet."


Green shoots

Though the endowment has not grown significantly and fundraising numbers continue to slide, bright spots remain in an otherwise gloomy economic situation for the University. Last year, the Brown Annual Fund, the University's general fundraising campaign, reached its goal of $36 million, up from $35 million in the 2009 fiscal year. The scholarship fund supporting undergraduate financial aid — which raised its goal from $300 million to $400 million in October 2008 due to continued success — recently passed $300 million, Vanden Dorpel said, though administrators said it may be difficult to reach the $400 million mark with only four months left in the campaign.

"I think under the circumstances, it was really an efficient year," he said. "We finished the year well on a number of fronts."

As the campaign winds down, advancement leaders are focusing on completing fundraising for the Metcalf Chemistry and Research Laboratory renovation project and the new Medical Education Building, as well as continuing the push to raise funding for undergraduate scholarships, said Steven King '91, who replaced Vanden Dorpel as senior vice president for University advancement. He said the University has set a target of $140 million in new gifts and pledges for the current fiscal year, with an increased drive to raise funds to support the University as a research institution.

"We want to continue to build the momentum and meet the annual goals for the University," King said. "There's no shortage of needs."



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