Making History, Ahead of Schedule: Campaign Passes
|It’s been three years since the Penn community gathered on October 20, 2007 under a tent set up on the crumbling blacktop at the future site of Penn Park and at a massive party on College Green to celebrate the launch of Penn’s $3.5 billion Making History campaign [“Seizing the Moment,” Nov|Dec 2007].
The economic forecast still looked fairly rosy, though by then the stock market had already peaked at 14,164.53 on October 9. All along, prudent campaign planners had factored in the potential for some economic rough patches during the public phase of the campaign—as would be expected, given the normal vagaries of the business cycle, during any effort lasting five years—but it seems fair to say that no one foresaw just how bumpy the ride would be.
Among the many casualties of the economic crisis of the past two years was charitable giving, which declined 3.6 percent in the US in 2009, according to a report from the Giving USA Foundation and Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy. That represented the first decline in dollars since 1987, which was caused by a combination of the market crash that October and changes to the tax laws that had made giving in 1986 more advantageous. This time around, of course, it was all the economy. The Council for Aid to Education reported that giving to higher education took an even bigger hit, seeing its biggest decline ever (11.9 percent) in 2009.
Nevertheless, the Making History campaign is running ahead of projections, having raised a total of $2.85 billion, or a bit more than 81 percent of the goal. According to John Zeller, vice president for development and alumni relations, that “puts us about four-and-a-half to five months ahead of where we had to be, to be on pace to achieve the $3.5 billion.” (Readers can track the campaign’s progress, and learn much more, at www.makinghistory.upenn.edu.)
“After two of the toughest years since the Great Depression,” this performance is “truly gratifying,” says Penn President Amy Gutmann. “It speaks volumes about the dedication, loyalty, and enthusiasm of the Penn alumni and parent community. I think it also speaks volumes about the trajectory that Penn is on.”
The University finished its 2010 fiscal year, which ended on June 30, with $402.5 million in new commitments and $381.6 million in cash—about 10 percent above goal, in both cases. And at just under $55 million, annual giving was “the second highest in Penn’s history” after 2007, when the campaign launched, Gutmann points out. “So our alumni and friends sent a really strong signal.”
Not that the downturn didn’t have an impact, especially in the first half of the fiscal year (the second half of calendar year 2009). From July 1 through October 30, 2009, the University received only 10 gifts of $1 million or more; the pace picked up considerably after that, though, with 85 seven-figure or larger gifts coming in before the fiscal year’s end.
Gutmann points to the pledge made last December by Campaign Chair George Weiss W’65 to fund four Penn Integrates Knowledge (PIK) professors as a turning point. “Independently of that gift, he said, ‘We’re poised to catapult Penn into the stratosphere,’” she recalls. “And in the spirit of Ben Franklin, he put his theory into practice, and stepped up to the plate with a spectacular $20 million gift.”
Additional multi-million dollar PIK gifts followed from Stephen J. Heyman W’59 and from Robert M. Levy WG’74 (the campaign co-chair) and Diane v.S. Levy; and through the rest of the year, “We saw giving to Penn and participation in Penn alumni events just skyrocket in an environment that was anything but favorable,” Gutmann says.
Gutmann sees the breadth of Penn’s support as a key positive factor. “The reason I’m optimistic that we’re going to make our goal is not simply the very large gifts, which are absolutely important, but the fact that 25 percent of our campaign to date has been funded by gifts of under $100,000.”
Many fundraising efforts rely heavily on a relative handful of gigantic contributions. Penn’s pattern is more like a layer cake. “When you look at the donor profile at Penn,” explains Zeller, “our giving stratifies plus or minus three or four percent in each one” of four categories, ranging from gifts of $1 to $100,000, $100,000 to $1 million, $1 million to $10 million, and $10 million and above. “If someone says, ‘I can’t give you a big gift, I can give $200 to the annual fund,’ cumulatively those gifts amount” to a quarter of total giving annually.
“We’re seeing more and more participation in the campaign,” Gutmann says. “And that’s fueled, I think, by a belief that we have a winning formula and a pride in Penn—that we can make a difference in the world. When a lot of things are going wrong in the world, a lot of things are going right here at Penn.”
One of those things is the inclusion of non-financial goals built around increasing alumni engagement with Penn as a formal part of the campaign, which Gutmann and other officials say is unique to the University.
“We’ve really used the non-financial goals to govern our work over the last three years,” says Hoopes Wampler, assistant vice president for alumni relations. “These might be things we would have been working on anyway, but to be able to use the excitement and timeframe of the campaign has been really invigorating for alumni relations.”
Initiatives include new career-networking and educational opportunities for alumni; stepped-up outreach to alumni communities around the globe (like the very well-received “Engaging Minds” presentations featuring lectures and Q&As with various PIK professors [“Gazetteer,” Mar|Apr 2010] and visits from the president and other Penn senior administrators and faculty); and innovative on-campus events, such as the recent Penn Spectrum conference on diversity and community [“Gazetteer,” Sept|Oct] and the revamped version of Homecoming, which launched in 2009 as a weekend devoted to campus arts and culture as well as football—and increased attendance by 50 percent from the previous year. Penn is also paying a lot of attention to social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to provide new forums for alumni to interact and to share information about the University.
Wampler also points to two new programs getting under way this year. One is focused on “shared interest groups,” aimed at “alumni groups that are not based on class, degree, or ethnicity or region.” (Examples of such groups that are already thriving would include the Penn Band and Daily Pennsylvanian alumni associations, for example.) The other effort targets young alumni, “right when they first graduate, but also up to 15 years out,” he says, and is designed to “make sure that all this energy and enthusiasm and love for the institution that students have when they’re here [continues] when they leave.”
Looking ahead, Gutmann emphasizes that though surpassing 80 percent of the Making History campaign’s overall goal represents a significant milestone, much work remains in order to meet the campaign’s “core priorities” in the areas of financial aid, faculty support, and facilities improvements.
Penn’s donors have embraced the University’s all-grant, no-loan policy for undergraduate financial aid [“Gazetteer,” Mar|Apr 2008], which went into full effect last fall, Gutmann notes, and they also understand that “by getting the best graduate students, we’re training the next generation of faculty.” The recession has only emphasized the importance of financial aid, she adds.
About 70 percent of the goal of $673 million for undergraduate and graduate student aid has been raised. “But that still leaves a lot more to get,” Gutmann notes.
The percentage raised to date is similar for faculty support, which has a goal of $623 million. While the PIK professors get a lot of well-deserved attention, overall Penn has added more endowed professorships during the campaign than at any time in the University’s history, Gutmann says. That has been an enormous advantage in faculty retention and recruitment. “But if we’re complacent about that, we’ll fall behind. And so we have to raise more [for] professorships,” she says.
On the facilities side, projects like the renovation and new addition to the Music building, the construction of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, the Weiss Pavilion at Franklin Field, and ongoing work at Penn Park are transforming the campus landscape, Gutmann says. With the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine and the Roberts Proton Therapy Center now completed, and the Translational Research Center scheduled to open within a year, Penn’s academic medical facilities will be the best in the country, she adds.
However, the University is still seeking large “naming” gifts for the Translational Research Center, Penn Park, the new College House on Hill Field, the Neurobehavioral Science Building, and the Arts, Research, and Culture House (ARCH) on Locust Walk, which houses the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships and a variety of student ethnic-heritage and performing-arts groups.
While fears of the US falling back into recession appear to be abating, the recovery remains anemic at best. As for what the economy will look like in the months ahead, Gutmann puts herself in the category of “people who know they don’t know.” What she does know, she says, is that the Penn community is passionate about the goals of the campaign, and committed to achieving them.
“Is this a tough environment? Yes,” she says. “Are we managing in it? We’re more than managing, we’re getting stronger. And that’s a very positive feeling, and it’s a great incentive for people to invest more in Penn.”—J.P.
©2010 The Pennsylvania
Last modified 10/25/10