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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Fundraising campaign sets record

Published: August 29, 2008
Section: Front Page

During the 2008 fiscal year, Brandeis raised $90.4 million in cash gifts, the most donations the university has ever raised in a single year. Since 2001, the Campaign for Brandeis has received a total of $790 million in pledges and cash gifts. In five years the Campaign hopes to reach the goal of $1.22 billion.

Nancy Winship, who is beginning her fifteenth year as Brandeis’ Senior Vice President for Institutional Advancement, attributes 2008’s fundraising success, in part, to an active university president. “Brandeis is fortunate to have President Reinharz, who is an inspirational leader and fundraiser, and has been building wonderful connections to friends and alumni since 1994,” Winship wrote in an e-mail to The Hoot.

She also listed a committed Board of Trustees as having a great effect. The Board of Trustees, which consists of 50 members, has contributed a third of this year’s donations.

The Board of Trustees sets the Campaign for Brandeis’ goals and votes whether or not to continue with the Campaign once an objective is reached. At the Campaign’s inception, according to Winship, the board was “very nervous” about whether a young university would be able to reach the substantial goal of $470 million. When the Campaign exceeded the original goal of $470 million in 2006, however, the trustees unanimously voted to attempt to reach $770 million by June 2009. This goal was surpassed in April, more than a year before the deadline, and the board once more voted to continue with the Campaign.

The majority of the funds this year, $33.6 million, came from friends of Brandeis. Winship wrote, “What makes Brandeis unique from other institutions is the money that is able to be raised from friends…[like] the Jewish community, which has supported Brandeis from the beginning.” She detailed that donors who do not have a permanent connection to Brandeis are attracted by the university’s commitment to social justice or see a cash gift or pledge as an “investment.”

Last year, the Schusterman Family Foundation, an organization whose self-declared mission is “helping Jewish people flourish,” gave a $15 million gift to establish an Israel Studies center.

Alumni have consistently contributed to the Campaign for Brandeis as well. In the 2008 fiscal year, two alumni made record-breaking gifts and pledges. Robert Sillerman ’69 gave a cash gift of $10 million, the largest cash gift from an alumnus, to create a center for the advancement of philanthropy. Donald Soffer ’54 pledged $15 million to support the sciences. The money will help fund Brandeis’ science initiative, which includes the largest single capital endeavor in Brandeis’ history, the Carl J. Shapiro Science Center.

Over the past few years, alumni have been donating more frequently and in increasing amounts. For example, in 1995 alumni gave $4.1 million, compared to this year’s $25 million. Winship, however, emphasized the importance of small cash gifts. The average age of a Brandeis alum is 41, so many are unable to donate great sums of money. “The difference is made up by many people who make generous, but smaller gifts,” Winship said.

The Phonathon, a program in which student callers solicit alumni, parents, and friends for annual gifts, received an average pledge of $150. In total, the Phonathon raised a record high of $900,400. Matthew Magida, the Annual Giving Officer, commented on why the Phonathan is essential to the fundraising effort. “It’s the largest form of communication alums have with Brandeis and more alums respond to it than direct mailings,” Magida said.

He also stressed the significance of alumni participation through donations because college ranking sites (such as U.S. News and World Report) look at alumni cash gifts or pledges as signs of alumni satisfaction.

Donations and pledges are used to fund a variety of aspects of university life. According to the Office of Capital Projects website, since 1994, 90% of capital projects have been gift-funded. Recently, the Mandel Foundation has pledged $22.5 million to establish a Mandel Center for the Humanities. Carl and Ruth Shapiro have also donated $14 million to build a new campus admissions center; 15 years ago they provided the funds for the original. Donors can endow scholarships, fellowships, and faculty chairs, as well as contribute funds for current-use.

The Campaign for Brandeis is entering its third phase, which focuses on continuing to gather funds for the science initiative and on raising $154 million for student scholarships.

Winship said, “We believe that the transformation in the lives of Brandeis students and alumni created by the scholarships is a compelling reason for alumni, friends, and parents to support this initiative.” She explained that more money needed to be raised for scholarships, in part because of the worsening economy.

In regards to how the state of the economy will impact future fundraising efforts, Winship was confident. “Brandeis has never rested on its laurels, or held back from a challenge, so we are aiming for another record year for 2009.”