Campaign NU ends at $1.55 billion

Dalia Naamani-Goldman

Campaign Northwestern brought in more than $1.55 billion dollars after a seven-year span of networking and fund raising, university officials announced today.

“This is a really happy moment,” said Sarah Pearson, vice president for university development. “People want to believe NU can do well and succeed. This is our time and it’s great we’ve done this.”

Campaign NU, which is the largest fund-raising initiative in NU’s history and far surpassed its original goal of $1 billion, involved more than 102,000 donors, most of them alumni. Many corporations and foundations also contributed to the effort, which already has renovated buildings and built new structures, provided funds for undergraduate scholarships and paid for graduate fellows.

“The gifts that we received are reshaping the university,” University President Henry Bienen said in a press release. “NU today is a better place than it was seven years ago in many ways, thanks to the gifts we received.”

Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences hopes to attract more faculty, put in place new advising systems and increase opportunities for research, fellowships and independent study because of money raised in the campaign, said dean Daniel Linzer.

He credits Bienen’s fund-raising efforts for much of Campaign NU’s “amazing success.”

“I don’t think anyone expected us to achieve a level 50 percent higher” than the initial goal, Linzer said.

Campaign NU brought in 20 gifts of more than $10 million and more than 38,000 gifts of $1,000 or more. The Board of Trustees, which spearheaded the campaign, donated nearly $267 million.

The campaign identified three target areas: facilities, endowment and operating expenses. Both the operating and endowment segments met ? and exceeded ? their goals, but the facilities segment was nearly 19 percent below its target. Several other goals also were not met.

Administrators and development officers began planning nearly two years before the campaign officially began. A master strategy and specific goals were outlined beginning in 1996 by Bienen and the Board of Trustees.

The official campaign began May 1998, with the initial target of $1 billion and the August 2003 end date. University officials twice revised the campaign goal ? once in May 2001 to $1.4 billion and again in January to $1.5 billion.

NU wasn’t alone in its financial optimism. Many billion-dollar campaigns began in the mid-1990s at universities, following the lead of Stanford University in 1985. Pearson refers to that period as “a boom period philanthropically.”

The economic environment soon changed, however. Sept. 11, 2001, and the subsequent economic downturn stunted fund-raising goals at universities across the country.

But NU’s campaign did not suffer according to Pearson. Even if donation levels fluctuate, she said it is rare for them to drop overall. Surprisingly, donations to higher education institutions even have increased, post-Sept. 11.

“(It) actually helped higher education philanthropically,” Pearson said. “It helped people reset and re-sort their values. Higher education was sorted up higher on lists (of priorities).”

Penny Hunt, associate vice president for university development, said Sept. 11 caused alumni to be involved more in their alma maters and reconnect with old friends and classmates. The development office also has seen an increase in local and regional alumni clubs.

Hunt said most schools that have large fund-raising initiatives are well-established and have dedicated alumni and friends. But good strategic planning has also raised many billions of dollars, according to Hunt

“It’s a sign these universities know what they can do,” she said.

Alan Cubbage, vice president for university relations, said he doesn’t think NU’s reputation is going to change in any significant way following Campaign NU.

“I think success in fund-raising efforts reaffirms the fact that the university is a place that is well thought of,” he said. “Any place that can garner $1.55 billion in support obviously has a network of people committed to that institution.”

University officials will announce Campaign NU’s results tonight at a Board of Trustees dinner.