Harvard Pounds Yale in Fundraising Game: Why Care?

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Harvard vs. Yale

January 29, 2015;Yale Daily News

For the first time since 2005, Yale did not rank in the top 10 for annual fundraising among colleges and universities nationwide.

Poor Yale University found itself embarrassed at the end of 2014 with donations of a mere $430.31 million, as contrasted to $444.2 million in 2013. This places Yale at number fifteen on the list of universities with the highest fundraising takes, according to an annual survey performed by the Council for Aid to Education. (Last year, it was ninth on that list.) And this in a year when nationally contributions grew by 10.8 percent, their highest in history at a national level! It is also a cruel comparison to the $580 million it raised in 2011, or to 2013, when Charles Johnson made his $250 million donation, the largest in Yale history.

Still, Yale is not concerned. “I do not think the slight dip in cash receipts in the last year is a significant trend for the future,” Vice President for Development Joan O’Neill wrote in an email. “It is important to note that we had an excellent year last year in terms of new commitments—raising $502 million against our goal of $400 million.”

Harvard, on the other hand, with a fundraising total of $1.16 billion took in the highest total donations in the history of higher education, breaking Stanford’s 2012 world record of $1.03 billion. And Harvard did not even count the $350 million donation it received in September 2014, which was the largest it had ever received.

Apparently, some of this differential is being driven by the fact that Harvard and Stanford have larger business schools, and business school graduates give large and give often relative to others. Harvard also has a larger law school.

Are you wondering, “So why do I care?” Remember that you are in competition for the attention of high-end donors, and historically, O’Neill says, “higher ed has recruited and retained the best fundraising professionals. […] They also seem to be on the leading edge of whatever are the most effective tactics in the profession. We are starting to see that spike in giving right now.”—Ruth McCambridge