Ten years after it began, the University's originally scheduled five-year Capital Campaign came to an end on Dec. 31, 2000. The campaign's results are, for the most part, unambiguous: the campaign was a wild success, a success of the sort that breaks records and changes the way a university works.
The campaign raised more than $2.8 billion, making it the largest fundraising effort ever mounted by a university and exceeding its target goal by more than $500 million.
"We are now in the top handful of universities in the country in terms of the amount of money we raise each year," University President George Rupp said in an interview yesterday. "That was not true in the past."
In the early '90s, Columbia raised approximately $100 million per year. According to Rupp, all indications point to this year's cash receipts totaling well over $300 million.
Another important factor, alumni giving percentage, has increased significantly throughout the Capital Campaign.
"When the campaign began, our alumni giving rate was 18 percent. Now it's roughly double that," Rupp said.
While the campaign was clearly helped by a strong economy, Columbia's growth rates in fundraising have far exceeded those of comparable universities. Princeton University, for instance, has steadily received around $150 million per year for its capital campaign for the last five years, while Columbia's annual receipts have grown to more than double that number.
The Capital Campaign--officially the Campaign for Columbia-- began in 1990 under then-President Michael Sovern as a five-year, $1.15 billion campaign. In 1993, after Rupp became president of the University, he extended the campaign in an unorthodox move for another five years and also raised the target goal to $2.2 billion.
"We had a lot of momentum underway. We had increased the giving level above what had been the past pattern here; we also had substantial needs that continued to require resources," Rupp said. "So, the choice was either we stop and reconsider and then a few years later go back in again, or we could just keep going. It seemed clear to me that we should just keep going, even though it was unconventional."
For most four-year students, it is hard to recognize the changes that the campaign has already helped to bring about. Top administrators say, however, that Columbia has undergone enormous changes in the last 10 years.
"You have seen the changes," Rupp said. "There is no question that the physical plant here is dramatically different from what it was seven or eight years ago. When I came, there was concern over whether we could continue having need-blind admissions. I don't think anybody now is discussing whether we can have need-blind admissions. We also made major investments in rebuilding faculty departments that needed investment."
During the course of the campaign, the University was able to create more than 200 new named professorships, a factor that Rupp said greatly enhances Columbia's ability to draw new faculty to the institution.
The Capital Campaign was also exceptional in other ways aside from the large total amount raised, featuring many more gifts in the $1 to $5 million range than normal.
"Our gift pyramid differs from our peers in that there is a bulge at the 1 million to 10 million level. A normal gift pyramid would show more donations above the 25 million mark, but our real strength was in the $1 to $10 million level," said Vice-President for Development and Alumni Relations Dick Naum. "People who gave $100,000 in the past were willing to give $1,000,000 this time around."
While top administrators said that the campaign was almost completely run by staff members rather than volunteers, the second half of the campaign did receive some assistance from Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees David Stern. Stern, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association, chaired phase two of the campaign.
"David is one of the brightest people walking the planet," Naum said. "He played a significant role in the planning and overall strategy of the campaign."
The Capital Campaign remedied some fundamental problems that have plagued the University's fundraising efforts in the past. Columbia's fundraising infrastructure is much younger than those at comparable universities.
"We are relative newcomers to fundraising. For 43 years we had a president, Nicholas Murray Butler (1902-1945), that didn't believe in fundraising," Naum said. "So we have never developed a big base of fundraising capacity for the University."
Columbia's weak fundraising prior to the last 20 years has had the unfortunate effect of leaving the University without the strong generational support that other top universities have. Columbia's Administration, though, is confident that the strength of this past decade's fundraising efforts will be the start of a long-term commitment from alumni to support the University.