EDITORIAL: Fundraising woes
Build and maintain relations
Published: Monday, August 27, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 20:08
Fiscal year 2011 saw the lowest amount of contributions, gifts and grants given to the University in at least 10 years, a Justice analysis of federal tax filings has found.
In fiscal 2011, the most recent year for which numbers are publicly available, the University reported a total of nearly $29 million in income from fundraising dollars, a roughly $7-million decrease from the previous fiscal year, and a $70-million drop from the height of university fundraising in fiscal 2008.
This decrease may be detrimental for a university still finding its financial footing after a harsh recession.
University development officials have told the Justice that the decrease in fundraising dollars is largely due to the presidential transition period. Fiscal 2011 encompasses the last six months of President emeritus Jehuda Reinharz’s presidency and the first six months of President Frederick Lawrence’s tenure.
“Fiscal year 2011, which ended on June 30, 2011, was a presidential transition year as you know,” wrote Bill Burger, associate vice president for communications, in an email to the Justice. “It also came near the end of a long and successful capital campaign. So I wouldn’t draw any conclusions or make any broad judgments based on that one-year snapshot in time.”
This board understands the inherent challenges resulting from a presidential transition: It takes time for donors to trust a new president, and Mr. Lawrence needs time to cultivate his own network of patrons, not just relying on Reinharz-era contributors.
The University is also coming off of a capital campaign—a fundraising initiative to raise money for facilities and scholarships that began in 2000—and therefore it cannot be expected to match previous years of fundraising. The aftershocks of the great recession are also still reverberating.
Despite these challenges, the downward trajectory of fundraising dollars is deeply concerning. In fiscal 2011, the University operated at a deficit of nearly $20 million, and the administration has consistently increased the price of a Brandeis education over the past several years.
Without a strong network of donors, the University cannot possibly remain affordable because tuition will continue to rise, and financial aid will not be able to match it.
However, it is comforting that the strategic planning process, which Mr. Lawrence began upon his
arrival, plans to take into consideration the University’s financial status and anticipates a future capital campaign.
The Strategic Planning Financial Task Force will propose new funding strategies and identify new opportunities for the University, according to its description on the strategic planning website. Another task force plans to identify methods to engage alumni with the University, providing a potential treasure trove of new donors.
But even with these initiatives, Mr. Lawrence has no small task ahead. Mr. Reinharz left a legacy of monumental fundraising over his 16 years here.
The challenge moving forward is how Mr. Lawrence and his team of top fundraisers, including Nancy Winship, senior vice president of institutional advancement, will tap into a new network of donors.
We hope Mr. Lawrence will be successful: the future of the University depends on it.