University Plans Capital Campaign

Harvard has begun planning for its first fundraising campaign in ten years

Harvard has begun planning for its next capital campaign, University President Drew G. Faust said in an interview earlier this month, after over five years of delays caused by turmoil within the University and in the larger economic landscape.

Over the coming months, the University’s planning effort will identify projects and themes that Faust said she hopes will excite donors. The University has not yet set a firm date for the launch of the campaign.

“We want to align our sense of what is most important to us with what we think we can raise money for,” Faust said.

Capital campaigns for major non-profits typically span several years and begin securing donation pledges before the campaign is publicly launched, sometimes raising upwards of 40 percent of the campaign’s net commitments in the so-called “quiet phase” of fundraising. The University has appointed Jennifer Pachus, a former FAS associate dean for development, as executive director of the upcoming capital campaign.

Harvard’s last capital campaign, which raised $2.6 billion ($3.2 billion in today’s dollars), ended nearly 10 years ago in 2001, but the University has repeatedly decided to postpone a new campaign in recent years.


The lack of a permanent University President and central administration staff in 2006 led officials to delay the launch of a campaign, as the president’s vision is crucial to determining the direction of large fundraising drives. In the past two years, the campaign was again pushed back due to the economic downturn that saw the University endowment contract by 27.3 percent in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009.

Administrators will take into account the impact of last year’s recession on donors when determining fundraising goals, Faust said. But given the time elapsed since the last capital campaign, the University needs to move forward on a capital campaign despite recent economic turbulence, she added.

“It’s been 10 years since Harvard ended its last campaign,” Faust said. “That’s a very long time to go between campaigns. It’s really time for us to be assessing how we are going to be moving into this.”

Large campaigns like the 2001 effort represent an opportunity for University Presidents to lay out their vision for the University’s future in the hope that donors will agree to fund that effort­—an experience that can define the president’s tenure.

According to Faust, major capital campaigns are beneficial for the University not only because they raise funds, but also because they force administrators to set priorities.

Leaders within the University must choose programs to emphasize that can garner the support of the alumni community—a type of austerity measure that Faust said would strengthen the University.

In the long term, capital campaigns also renew alumni bonds to Harvard through the course of the planning and organizational process, which leads to an increase in overall giving after the end of the campaign, according to Faust.

—William N. White contributed to the reporting of this article.

—Staff writer Elias J. Groll can be reached at