Duke University Alumni Magazine


The main event: A banquet in Cameron, featuring dancing gargoyles and major speakers, capped an October weekend that celebrated the announcement of Duke's largest fund-raising foray
Photo: Les Todd

How a university puts together a massive fund drive--an effort that becomes both an indication of ambition and of the ability to make good on that ambition.

eils Bohr, the preeminent philosopher of physics, once mused: "If someone says that he can think about quantum physics without becoming dizzy, that shows only that he has not understood anything whatever about it." So how can we think about the figure 1.5 billion without becoming dizzy? It's smaller than some things--like the age of the universe, pegged at 15 billion years. It's larger than most things--even the activity on the Mars Pathfinder website, which drew 1 billion worldwide "hits," the largest movement of information in history.

As a figure, 1.5 billion is unfathomable; as a dollar goal, it is daunting. Or so it seems. But appearing undaunted, Duke officials this fall launched a fund-raising campaign to conclude by December 31, 2003. This Campaign for Duke embraces all of Duke. That's a $1.5-billion embrace.

At the October kickoff, President Nannerl O. Keohane told trustees and key supporters that the effort proceeds from a perceived "gap between what we can accomplish today with our people and resources, and what we could accomplish tomorrow--if only we had the resources." The gap, she said, "is both tantalizing and challenging." Keohane pointed out that Duke has faced and closed other gaps, and in so doing has changed the look and heightened the profile of the university. "The proof of our ambition--and our ability to make good on it--is there for everyone to see in our history and current reputation."

Duke "now is a player in the 'big leagues' of higher education," as she put it. A lot in the way of evidence and anecdotes validates Duke's big-leagues status--admissions statistics, faculty reputations, outside support for research, media attention, published rankings. And now there's that astronomical dollar goal.

"We can look at this campaign from two points of view," says John Piva, senior vice president for alumni affairs and development. "One is sort of a defensive position: We've done so well in such a short period of time and have come so very far, but we don't have the underpinnings in terms of endowment. And we have to consider the sources of money that have made Duke's success to date possible: tuition income, government support, the medical center, endowment, annual giving. Those are our five permanent sources of income.

"In terms of tuition, we have about maxed out; we're not going to make the kind of leaps from one year to the next that we've seen with past tuition increases. We look at government grants, and we see cutbacks in Washington and increased competition for funds from Washington. We look at the medical center, and it's no longer the cash cow it once was. So what's left is endowment and annual giving. And that speaks to a campaign."

What Piva calls "the offensive position" in explaining the campaign is bringing to reality the goals in the university strategic planning process. In making a case for the campaign, university officials point out that Duke has made strategic investments in the past: creating a medical center "way ahead of the curve" in the 1930s; establishing and then endowing the Fuqua School of Business in the 1980s, and the Nicholas School of the Environment in the 1990s; targeting significant faculty investment in the humanities in the 1980s--which brought Duke to a position of prominence in national rankings of graduate programs; building the Levine Science Research Center earlier this decade. The published case statement cites former Duke President Terry Sanford's frequent reference to Duke's "outrageous ambitions."

This latest set of ambitions came out of a long period of planning. The campaign essentially began as the university closed its last comprehensive campaign, which ran from 1984 through 1992. In December of 1992, at the same meeting in which they elected Nannerl O. Keohane Duke's president, the board of trustees received the report "A Duke Plan: Positioning Duke for the Twenty-First Century."

"A Duke Plan" begat "Shaping Our Future," which was approved by the board in the fall of 1994. That plan called for "enhancing academic quality, strengthening Duke's sense of community and its role as a citizen, enhancing academic medicine, and increasing academic and administrative effectiveness." It reaffirmed some core values, notably the commitment to need-blind undergraduate admissions (that is, making admissions decisions independent of the financial circumstances of candidates). It also advocated "securing our financial future." Along those lines, the university contracted with a fund-raising consultant, Carol O'Brien Associates, to explore the feasibility of another campaign.

From the outset, university officials saw the campaign as comprehensive. It would stretch to all areas of the university, including the medical center, the professional schools, the libraries, and athletics. And while it would have an endowment orientation rather than a facilities focus, it would stretch to all forms of giving. The campaign goal in one area, annual giving, is $100 million; to generate that sum through endowment earnings would take $2 billion.

"So we did an assessment of our development operations, and our preparedness," Piva says. "Out of that came various task forces to look at areas we felt needed shoring up before we jumped off on another campaign." The central development office put new resources into operations like prospect research, identification, and management; it hired new staff in areas ranging from foundation relations to regional campaigns to the various professional schools. "We then began to work with the academic administration, and the academic administration with its departmental chairs and faculty, to articulate objectives. And out of that came a whole big 'wish list' of items that, over the course of two years, we had to narrow down to true needs and reasonable aspirations."

"The process in coming to the goals is set by the academic administration--starting with the provost and then the deans and then the departmental chairs and then the faculty," Piva says. "As deans and others look at the wish list, they seek our advice: Is this something that will sell, that people will become enthusiastic about? Is there a discrete audience who will really gravitate to this? Or is this a project that's so hard to sell that we should probably support it apart from fund raising? So the projects that are hard to sell get funded through general revenue, and those that have some pizzazz emerge in the campaign."

One thing that emerges in the campaign is the high profile of the medical center; its component of the campaign is $550 million. Chancellor for Health Affairs Ralph Snyderman says realizing that goal will both "stabilize the academic mission of the medical center" and allow it to "take the next great leap forward." Before Keohane came on board as president, Duke's medical center was contemplating a free-standing fund drive--which is quite in the pattern of academic medical centers. But Synderman sees a mutual reinforcement in the campaign-within-a-campaign: Program initiatives like cognitive neuroscience and human genetics "draw strength from the university and add strength to the university."

According to Snyderman, the idea for a human genetics institute--one aspect of that planned "next great leap forward" for the medical center and for the campus as a whole--came from discussions with the university's senior officials. When the conversation turned to the kind of initiative that might have a transforming impact on Duke, genetics seemed a natural selection. Beyond conducting basic research and aiming for treatments, the institute will have a philosophical dimension. "Genomic technologies are pretty much the Holy Grail in understanding where we come from and anticipating where we're going as what is, so far as we know, the most complex species in the universe. And Duke is strongly positioned for such a project. It's unusual in a single institution to find so many different components that could be applied to genetics, including sociological, political, technological, financial, legal, ethical, and religious perspectives."

Trinity College of Arts and Sciences has the biggest campaign goal, $325 million, after the medical center's target. William Chafe, dean of the faculty of arts and sciences, says the college organized a series of development retreats by all the deans to figure out funding priorities. "We talked at length about the importance of raising endowment, and particularly about the importance of financial aid and securing support for distinguished professorships."

Chafe says it wasn't difficult to arrive at a consensus. "From the beginning, we were concerned with shoring up the intellectual and undergraduate aspect of our Trinity College mission. There were some capital projects that fell by the wayside, but this is really not a campaign about bricks and mortar." The $200-million endowment goal for Arts and Sciences is the hardest kind of money to raise, he says. Still, according to Chafe--who says he is spending a quarter of his time doing development work--donors are responding to the theme of student aid, just as they are being drawn into the Bass Professorships program. (Launched two years ago by Anne Bass and Robert M. Bass, the program provides "bargain" naming opportunities through a rather attractive three-to-one match. So a full professorship, which at Duke requires a minimum endowment of $1.5 million, can now be created and named with a gift of just over $1.1 million; the Bass match would then contribute the remaining $375,000.)

Beyond the money raised, one benefit of

a campaign may be the planning discipline that it imposes--and the "buy-in" to the central university on the part of the professional schools. The law school, for example, engaged in an eighteen-month planning process. Pamela Gann J.D. '73, dean of the law school, says the school set up a campaign planning committee composed of alumni, friends, and faculty. The committee was subdivided into areas that touched on curricular emphases, like environmental studies and globalization, and on core themes, like scholarships and libraries. Each subcommittee issued a report. Gann put together a synthesis draft that was approved by the full campaign committee. The law faculty deliberated on the draft at a retreat; Gann then made revisions that were considered by a standing faculty/student planning committee. Finally the plan went to the full faculty. It was approved by them, and also by the school's board of visitors.

"We certainly took into account fund-raising potential in our planning process," says Gann. "But it did not at all drive the process. We simply discussed what we thought was best to do." The ultimate law school goal--$50 million--"is not at all reflective of our history," she adds. Until this campaign, the largest single gift to the law school was $1 million. "In order to raise $50 million, we need at least two gifts of $5 million or higher, and at least ten to twelve gifts of $1 million to $5 million. We are definitely using this campaign to raise our sights."

The planning discipline helped the school revisit and reaffirm its priorities, just as it ensured that fund raisers were "on message," Gann says. "I think that our planning process resulted in an even more serious commitment to the financial-aid needs of our students; it is a big part of our overall campaign goal. It recommitted us to our faculty through chaired professorships. It also recommitted us to some particular fields, including constitutional law, international law, administrative law, in which we are already superb. And it raised the prospects for raising funds for some joint areas in which we are good at Duke--law and business, health law and policy, environmental law and policy."

Piva says that as priorities were emerging from the planning process, university officials "began testing those priorities and testing our ability to raise funds to meet them." Late in 1995, the board of trustees endorsed a "quiet phase" of a campaign. The board set a preliminary goal of $400 million over two years--40 percent of a billion dollars, which they thought might be the eventual goal. They asked trustee Peter Nicholas and Ginny Nicholas (both members of the Class of '64 and the parents of three Duke graduates) to lead a committee that would take responsibility for the campaign on behalf of the board. The Nicholases were among the first to contribute to the campaign, then in its quiet phase, by donating $20 million in 1996 to endow and name the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke. And from the spring of 1996 until early in 1998, Keohane drew hundreds to presidential dinners--structured as opportunities to probe Duke supporters on campaign priorities--in eighteen cities, stretching all the way to London.

By the spring of 1998, more than $500 million had been raised. The campaign steering committee recommended to the full board a considerably larger goal--$1.5 billion--than had been projected, with the public phase of the campaign to begin this fall.

With the formal kickoff in October, the so-called "nucleus fund" produced in the quiet phase had risen to rather impressive proportions--$684 million. Aside from the Nicholases, other early contributors included trustee Melinda French Gates '86, M.B.A. '87, and Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft. Pre-kickoff, the university announced a $20-million gift from the Gateses to strengthen financial aid and create the interdisciplinary University Scholars program for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Atlanta financier and trustee emeritus J.B. Fuqua gave $20 million to the Fuqua School of Business. The Basses--whose $10-million gift funds the Bass Professorships program--are Duke parents; Anne Bass is on the campaign steering committee. With $30 million aimed at scholarships, The Duke Endowment of Charlotte provided the campaign's largest gift to date.

Leadership has helped sustain the momentum. Keohane's energy is matched by "a group of deans who are aggressive, enthusiastic, and effective in fund raising," Piva says. He points out that a third of the board of trustees has been through a past campaign; many other board members have had experience with other fund-raising drives. And despite some recent bumps in its trajectory, the stock market's seemingly relentless rise--along with the overall soundness of the economy--has worked as a powerful philanthropic boost. In Piva's view, years of a stock-market boom have resulted in such an accumulation of wealth that even the inevitable slowdown--unless it's ruinous--won't have a major impact on the campaign. What a slowdown might do, he speculates, is to prompt some donors to stretch out pledges rather than parting with a lot of cash in a single gesture.

he university's happy, if quiet, testing of the campaign goal also suggests a coming-of-age reality. Robert Shepard was recently promoted to vice president with day-to-day responsibility for the campaign. He notes that the fund drive coincides with a "maturing" development effort: It has already enlisted something like a thousand volunteers, and it will link itself to alumni reunions, class-specific campaigns, regional campaigns in key cities, and alumni club events. In initiating the effort, the trustees approved a supplementary campaign budget of $2 million annually, or $14 million over the life of the campaign, beyond the base-line development budget. Shepard says that typically for fund-raising organizations, the cost per dollar raised is between five and eight cents, and that Duke is on the lower end of that range.

At the same time that the university has staffed up, more and more Duke alumni are achieving the sort of professional standing that prepares them for the big gifts that will fuel the campaign. And that's a big change for Duke. Places like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford raise half or more or their money from individuals, primarily alumni, and the rest from corporations and foundations. Duke--a relatively young university with a relatively young alumni body--historically has raised a third of its money from individuals, a third from corporations, and a third from foundations.

"As our alumni body ages and grows in numbers, we should see that percentage shift," Shepard says. "We expect that by the end of this campaign, about 50 percent of the dollars raised will come from individuals. And our nucleus fund has demonstrated that we're moving in that direction."

As Piva puts it, "While we need thousands and thousands of gifts, the success or failure of this campaign will really rest on the key gifts at the top." In particular, 50 percent or more of that $1.5-billion figure will come from gifts of a million dollars and more. Just as it is a "big leagues" player in higher education (as Keohane says), Duke is now playing in the big-gifts leagues. John Taylor, Duke's director of gifts records, says that in fiscal year 1997-98, the university had three gifts of $5 million or more from individuals. In the previous year, he registered one individual gift of more than $8 million, along with two individual gifts of $2.7 million. Ten years ago, Duke's three largest gifts from individuals came in at $1 million, $426,000, and $300,000.

In 1995-96, individuals contributed a total of $47.5 million to Duke; the following year, the total from individuals was almost $59 million. Last year's figure was $74.7 million. Total giving last year was $254.8 million--up from $220 million the year before, and nearly three times Duke's giving total of just under $86 million ten years ago. These days, Taylor's office is weighed down with more and more gifts to acknowledge. And more and more of those gifts are for pretty weighty sums.

Keohane's participation will be key to the campaign. She came to Duke with the reputation of an accomplished fund raiser, having brought to successful completion Wellesley College's campaign--at $150 million, ambitious by small-college standards, but exactly one-tenth of Duke's goal. "I think it's very important that Duke's is a comprehensive campaign, as it was for Wellesley," she says. "But a comprehensive campaign for Wellesley means the college and a few small research centers; for Duke, it means every school and college, all the programs, athletics, everything."

At Wellesley, Keohane says, it was a given that her campaign commitment would take her away from campus for long stretches. "I believe the same will be true for Duke, that when people hear that my fall schedule is absolutely chock-full of travel and I'm just not able to do something, that they will understand. I've also learned from the Wellesley experience that once you get into a campaign, you need to really strip away a lot of other things. I've cut way down on the number of boards I serve on; I'm being absolutely draconian about not accepting outside speaking commitments. I still need to keep my hand in commitments to higher education generally. I'm on the executive committee of the Association of American Universities, and I will still go to Washington. But those activities benefit Duke as well as higher education generally."

Given all the organizational complications of the Duke effort, Keohane says she saw an early campaign dividend--better coordination within a decentralized fund-raising organization. That meant, in part, figuring out a process for handling prospects with multiple degrees--and therefore subject to multiple appeals--from Duke. "When I came here as president, there was some sense that people were accustomed to doing their own development work, with a very loose coordination. For this comprehensive campaign, we've needed that coordination to be more than loose. Each school still has its own development activity, but it's with common campaign themes and logos, common ways of approaching donor prospects, common ways of handling gift reporting and stewardship. And that took some doing."

What took even more doing was deciding on the priorities outlined in "Shaping Our Future." "Every school set its own fund-raising total," Keohane says. "And no school had an interest in setting a totally unrealistic goal; that would just come back to haunt them. We did, however, encourage people to stress across the schools some areas that are of a very high priority to the entire university--faculty support and scholarships. That wasn't hard, because these are indeed among the highest priorities of every school. Whenever possible, we want to push in those areas rather than putting too much of the money in special programs. For one thing, programs tend to have a particular life. Some of them last for decades, some only last for a period of years. But we see the campaign as building for the indefinite future, as making a difference no matter what future programs people may launch."

John Strohbehn, the Duke provost, notes that the campaign's emphasis on professorships and student aid reflects a competitive disadvantage: Duke is under-endowed compared to its peers among private colleges and universities, and even some public universities. Duke's endowment per student is not even the highest in North Carolina. Princeton funds its entire financial-aid program from endowment earnings; on a dollars-per-student basis, Princeton can call on about eight times the endowment resources available at Duke. Each Harvard, Yale, or Rice student is backed by five times more endowment than students at Duke. For Duke, financial aid is a tremendous drain on operating funds year after year: The university must pay for about 80 percent of its undergraduate financial aid program from operating funds. And Duke, even as it articulates an intention to heighten its profile internationally, lacks the resources to extend aid to international students.

Such budgetary realities hit Duke hard with growing competition for the best students: Increasingly, colleges are revising their criteria for financial aid to attract students from middle-income families. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, such elite institutions as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton, Stanford, and Harvard, just in the past year, have put more funding into student aid. In Harvard's case, the decision was to increase the size of its scholarships by $2,000 each per year.

And in the past academic year, Duke saw "raids" on forty-three professors, or nearly 10 percent of its tenure-track liberal-arts faculty. Only ten professors left to accept other offers. Still, as The Chronicle of Higher Education put it, "fending off that many sweet deals from prestigious institutions is a lot to handle in one year--more than Duke handled in the four previous years combined, in fact." Strohbehn told the newspaper that Duke brings in about as many faculty members as it loses, and from some of the same institutions. But, he notes, Duke is less likely than its peer schools to have a named professorship that might lure--or keep in place--a prized professor. Overall, Duke has less than half the number of endowed professorships of many of its competitors, university officials estimate; and a big aim of the campaign is to bridge the gap. A named professorship might bring extra research support or similar perks. More basically, it represents a certain stature: If you're inhabiting a named professorship, you're considered to be at the top of your profession.

Keohane says she and the provost also pushed for initiatives that will straddle the schools. The University Scholars program, involving students at all levels who resist intellectual compartmentalization, has attracted the Gateses as patrons. Another boundary-breaking goal is endowment for what are called university professors, scholars whose reach is meant to be interdisciplinary. The campaign sparks or sustains a number of interdisciplinary activities, ranging from the human genetics institute to the Kenan Ethics Program and a program in globalization and democratic governance.

n embarking on its huge, comprehensive fund drive, Duke is setting a standard: This is the largest fund-raising campaign ever conducted for a university in the South. It is also following a pattern. Harvard, where Laura Wilson Smith '90 is associate director of development communications, is completing a $2.1-billion campaign. Harvard formally launched its campaign in May of 1994; it's set to end next December. Like the Duke campaign, the Harvard drive is comprehensive, covering "everything from financial aid to faculty, to libraries, to information technology, to international initiatives, to basic research," Smith says.

This is the first time that Harvard has embarked on a university-wide campaign; in the past, the individual schools have run their own efforts. Student aid is getting a big push, with Harvard College aiming for $200 million in financial aid for undergraduates. University-wide, the campaign calls for eighty new faculty chairs. Interdisciplinary activities provide another theme--appropriately enough, since 1924 Harvard graduate and investment banker John Loeb and his wife, Frances Loeb, provided a campaign gift of more than $70 million to benefit various Harvard schools. "For the first time, Harvard is trying to raise money formally in a campaign environment for a set of activities that cross school boundaries," Smith says. Among those activities are a Mind/Brain/Behavior initiative along with a program in managing nonprofit institutions and a center for Latin American studies.

For a place that gave rise to the expression "every tub on its own bottom," Harvard's campaign-planning experience had an exhilarating impact, says Smith. Early in the process, Harvard President Neil Rudenstine had all of his deans review their needs; the sums added up to $3 billion, which fund raisers thought was beyond Harvard's reach. In the next round, each dean's planning and budgeting was reviewed by a team of deans from other Harvard schools. "That brought some new perspectives to the table. It was a useful exercise for a lot of reasons. For one thing, it made everyone appreciate the role of the university, that we're all in this together."

Johns Hopkins--which, in the Seventies, ran the first $100-million campaign in higher education--is in the midst of a $1.2-billion campaign. Half of the goal comes from the medical center. The campaign was publicly announced in October of 1994 and will finish at the end of 2000. Robert Lindgren, the vice president for development at Johns Hopkins, says the campaign's original goal was $900 million--a sum that was set, he notes, without the benefit of the usual feasibility study. This past spring, the trustees voted to expand the goal. Lindgren credits the heightened ambitions to campaign commitments (to the tune of about $450 million) on the part of the university's core volunteers, including trustees and members of the alumni council and advisory boards. The trustee chairman, and formerly the campaign chairman, is Michael Bloomberg, a 1964 graduate of Hopkins' engineering school. Bloomberg, the financial-services entrepreneur, made two campaign contributions totaling $100 million, covering all parts of the university. "It's very unusual for a big gift to be spread so widely," Lindgren says.

The main focus in the early phase of the Hopkins campaign was endowment; in the expanded phase, the university is targeting student aid and support of the libraries as specific priorities. Lindgren notes that Hopkins, like Duke, is relatively under-endowed. "Low endowment helps build the case for what it is we're doing. But places like Duke and Hopkins can't build an underdog case very easily. We're very successful institutions, and we're really trading on that success and our hopes for the future. The lead reason for giving is that this is an important institution that merits support. And generally those we solicit will have a relationship with Hopkins that will justify that support."

At least for Hopkins, endowment has become a somewhat easier sell than facilities, Lindgren says. "In part, that's because facilities, and their accompanying technology, have become so complicated and expensive. It's a little more challenging these days to go to a single donor and ask that donor to underwrite the cost of something like a sophisticated building for the medical school."

That challenge hinges on a wealth-creation environment filled with Bloombergs, or quasi-Bloombergs. "One of the things we've noticed in these billion-dollar-level campaigns is that there's a heavy dependence on big gifts," Lindgren says. More than half of Hopkins' contributions come from individuals; but even with the continuing nurturing of annual-giving donors, there's a heavy focus on major gifts from individuals. As of this fall, some 62 percent of what Hopkins has raised has come in donations of a million dollars or more. As the conventional thinking once had it, 20 percent of the donors accounted for 80 percent of the total. Hopkins' record shows that 1 percent of the donors are accounting for 90 percent of the total.

Bob Carter, himself a Johns Hopkins graduate, is the president of Ketchum, Inc., one of the best-known consulting firms in educational fund raising. Carter says he has seen

"a real surge in endowment fund raising," partly, he says, as a hedge against restraints on tuition income. And the targeting of endowment has produced what he calls "mega-goals" for campaigns. "You need to create that billion-dollar threshold if you want to solicit gifts in the range of $50 million to $100 million. You don't get those kinds of gifts in small campaigns; you get them in campaigns that have a scope appealing to mega-donors." People of enormous resources like Bloomberg need "a context in which to give," he says. "The larger the context, the larger the gifts."

"The idea that educational institutions are charities is long gone," Carter says. "They are not charities; they are investments in the future of our society. So their donors give very little on the basis of need; they give largely on the basis of opportunity." In Carter's view, the investment model pays huge dividends for universities: Even if donors impose limits on their charitable contributions, they're less likely to impose limits on their investments.

Carter says one recent campaign phenomenon is the growing fund-raising prominence of public universities. In 1995, the University of Virginia announced a comprehensive $750-million campaign. Last February, it upped the goal to a billion dollars. Early in the campaign, several volunteer leaders made gifts of a million dollars or more, notes Bill Sublette, Virginia's director of development communications. He says the campaign grew out of a negative--a dropping off in state support for the university--but has since shifted to a more positive and "aspirational" tone.

Virginia's last campaign, in the early Eighties, aimed for $90 million and raised $146 million. This effort takes the school a huge distance from the old benchmark. "It shows the maturation of our fund-raising process, and the enhanced expectations of our alumni," Sublette says.

The distinction of running the first comprehensive five-year campaign with a billion-dollar goal belongs to Stanford. Stanford concluded its Centennial Campaign in February 1992; its components included student aid, professorships, and bricks-and-mortar projects. The campaign brought in $1.1 billion. "It was a quantum leap," says John Ford, Stanford's vice president for development. "We knew we were out there testing completely new ground: We called it the billion-dollar question." By the time of the public kickoff, with just one year of a quiet phase, Stanford had raised $310 million--nearly the sum raised in all the years of the university's most recent campaign, from about a decade earlier.

"Any goal should be based on an institution's particular circumstances and what it can accomplish," Ford says. "In reality, the competitive juices get going at the level of the president's office and the board of trustees. And if other schools are reporting success with their own goals, no one is going to want to try for something less."

One of the most effective of the campaign messages confronted the idea that Stanford should be satisfied with its wealthy position. Stanford President Donald Kennedy addressed "how we can look so rich and feel so poor," recalls Ford, in one of his presidential talks. "And that message applies today as our universities are sitting on top of multi-billion-dollar endowments. We all have a constant battle in educating people about how these places work and why they are as expensive as they are."

In mid-campaign, Stanford faced one unexpected battle, and it was compelled to do some reorienting of priorities. After an earthquake struck, the university had to scale back on building plans for a science complex and apply resources to earthquake recovery--"trading one capital project for another," in Ford's words. And near the end of the campaign, Stanford was hit with the controversy over its overhead charges for federally-funded research. The unwelcome attention produced what Ford calls a "plateau" in fund raising. In that plateau year, 1992-93, Stanford raised $185 million. The next year, it raised $226 million. In the past fiscal year, it took in $319 million. Those results show one of the enduring benefits of a campaign--elevating expectations for giving even beyond the life of the campaign.

Expectations for giving hardly registered early in Duke's history. The university came slowly, and not exactly energetically, into the age of sophisticated fund raising. As part of the institution's centennial celebration (Brown's Schoolhouse, the forerunner of Trinity College and Duke, opened in 1838), Duke President William Few sought to educate alumni about such "needs and opportunities" as hoped-for library additions, a new dormitory group, and an engineering building. But 1938-39 was hardly a propitious time to ask alumni for money. The Great Depression had pulled down an already ailing economy in the South. Also, most people believed--incorrectly--that Duke, as a result of James B. Duke's $40-million endowment in 1924, was among the most heavily endowed universities in the country.

Responding to trustee concerns that the university should not engage in "begging," Few declared that the centennial material would not involve "a direct appeal of the university to anyone, but it will stimulate thinking and might bring valuable results even though we do not reach all our goals." That same fund-raising tentativeness expressed itself in his appeal to the Carnegie Foundation: "You are no doubt 'fed up' on such things, but after all, this is a bit unique, in that we are trying to build up a great endowed university in the Southeast where none has ever been." As it turned out, it was the campaign that never should have been: It drew minimal support.

The first organized fund drive, begun in 1947, went much more smoothly. The campaign targeted a student and alumni center, dormitories, a law and administration building, medical research and instruction, scholarships and fellowships, faculty salaries and endowed professorships, and equipment and maintenance. But many of the university's alumni still expressed surprise that Duke needed money. "We started with an uneducated (in giving), uncultivated consistency," noted one internal assessment.

With the Fifth Decade Campaign, starting in 1965, Duke looked to fund a ten-year plan that encompassed educational and research programs of greater breadth and depth; a faculty of notable stature; and needs in physical facilities and equipment. Four years ahead of schedule, the $102-million goal had been exceeded by $3 million. A report on the campaign concluded that "It is time now to begin again: to envision and to plan and to add to the tapestry of support woven over the years with such care and thought.... The vision is not merely to perpetuate what Duke now is, but to constantly improve."

Against this backdrop, the university embarked on The Epoch Campaign in 1973. Of the $162-million goal, $65 million would go toward buildings, including a new university center; student aid and faculty development also figured prominently. After four years, the drive netted about $136 million. That total was short of the goal. But university officials declared that the campaign pointed the way to broad recognition of "Duke's true stature and potential." As a published campaign summary observed, "Starting in a period of economic uncertainty, we built an increasing momentum with each year. Today, we are pleased to be among those private universities capable of raising over $25 million per year."

The last comprehensive drive, which ran from 1984 until 1992, began as The Capital Campaign for the Arts & Sciences and Engineering. The campaign's $200-million goal--with all gifts to go toward endowment--"demonstrates a resolute commitment to the university's future and to its intellectual core," said a promotional brochure. University officials ended up enlarging on the scope--and the time-frame--of the campaign. The renamed Campaign for Duke raised a total of $565 million, including $232 for endowment. "Duke University has come of age through the capital campaign," declared its chairman, the public policy institute's Joel Fleishman.

This year's Founders' Day speaker, Elizabeth Locke '64, Ph.D. '72, focused on the theme of giving. Locke, president of The Duke Endowment, told the October convocation audience that she is not impressed by cases for campaigns that hinge on the expected themes--particularly the idea of keeping up with the competition. Philanthropy, she said, flows from deep and personal bonds of loyalty. During her own student days, "At every turn, I found faculty who always had time to talk, who invited us to their homes, who even lent books."

Locke recalled convening with other students in the apartment of Duke writing instructor William Blackburn; they would spend their time reading their works and talking, "and arguing, and growing very earnest about eternal values and literature and poetry." She added: "People talk a lot about sports being so important because they unite the university. But believe me, there are other and perhaps more lasting bonds, deeper bonds, bonds that shaped us into the adults we became and that sustain us today."

And what sustains the fund raisers? Senior Vice President John Piva, now in his second Duke campaign, says he has to think big and to think small. In line with the big thinking, the development staff has charted out a need for sixty-seven gifts of $5 million and more, and 275 gifts of $1 million to $4.9 million, for the campaign to succeed. But the only way he can conceive of this enormous fund drive, he says, is by its various parts--progress toward the law school's goal, or the annual giving goal, or the Charlotte regional goal. Overseeing a $1.5-billion campaign brings a need to reduce it to scaled-back terms.

And so he looks not just to the mega-gifts for professional satisfaction. "I love it when a person really has a good time making a gift," Piva says. In fact, the same campaign plan that envisions the multi-million contributions also calls for "many" gifts of less than $25,000.

"I'm working with some people who just made a very large commitment to the library. And when we started talking about that gift, they were appalled to think that anybody would even suggest that amount of money. When we were all through, they actually ended up giving more, because they had acquired a taste for giving. They saw the joy that it brought to a lot of people, including themselves, and they saw how it was going to have an impact."


Please feel free to join in our on-line discussion now!

Share your comments

Have an account?

Sign in to comment

No Account?

Email the editor