College will launch new campaign to fund strategic planning building initiatives

The College is developing a comprehensive new campaign to fund and fully implement the spate of new strategic planning initiatives being developed.

“In order to accomplish the objectives of the strategic plan that the College has been working on, we are going to need additional resources,” said Steve Birrell, vice president for alumni relations and development. “We are in the beginning phase of what we expect will be a major comprehensive campaign.”

This campaign will finance the construction of the new theater and dance center and its adjacent parking garage; the renovation of Baxter Hall, Sawyer Library and Stetson Hall and all of the curricular initiatives devised by the Committee on Educational Policy (CEP) and passed by the faculty last year.

“Over the past year and a half we have been thinking about how to make our great College even better,” said Morton Owen Schapiro, president of the College. “Small interdisciplinary seminars, a greatly expanded tutorial program, Williams in New York, a new student center and theater and dance complex, and so much more, depend on two things – spending a larger percentage of our accumulated wealth and presenting a compelling case to our alumni and friends that Williams is deserving of their support.”

Neither the exact dollar amount of the campaign nor the total cost of these initiatives has yet been determined.

“We think the needs of the strategic planning initiatives will be close to $200 million in capital expenditures and about $10 million in ongoing annual expenses,” said Catharine Hill, provost of the College.

Presently, the College spends around $150 million annually, which consists of a $120 million operating budget and another $30 million spent on maintenance. A sizable portion of the cost of the initiatives will be financed through the College’s endowment, which was most recently estimated at around $1.3 billion, according to Hill.

“Because we have had such a rapid increase in endowment in the 1990’s, we have the ability to increase spending as well,” Hill said.

Hill estimates that between one third and one half of the initiatives can be funded by the College endowment, since the College was cautious and maintained a high rate of savings during the 1990s. She said that a general rule is that the College can use up to 5 percent of its endowment annually.

“[The] last few years, we spent between 3-4 percent [of the endowment],” she said. “So, there is room for growth.”

The College is presently in the very early stages of its new campaign. “This period that we are in, [which is] called the silent phase, could last a couple of years,” said Birrell. To begin, the development office is starting to contact alumni leaders, explain the initiatives, and build the nucleus fund, which is comprised of advance gifts.

“We are in the early, early stages of developing the nucleus fund,” explained Birrell. “We are a number of months away from publicly declaring that we are in a campaign. If you are doing really well, there is no need to stop it and go public because the overall dollar goal of the campaign is dependent upon how successful you are in the silent phase.”

Before announcing the campaign officially to the College community, the College will have around 40 percent of their campaign goal already in hand, Birrell said. Once it is made public, Birrell estimates that the campaign will last between five and seven years.

“A campaign counts dollars that we would have raised without a campaign, as well as additional dollars that come in as a direct results of the campaign,” said Birrell.

Once the campaign goes public, one of the most critical components to the College’s comprehensive campaign will be the Alumni Fund.

“We expect that the Alumni Fund will be a key piece of this campaign,” said Birrell. “It is a way that a lot of alumni will support [the capital campaign]. Williams College would simply not be what it is today if it hadn’t been for generations and generations of very generous alumni.”

“History suggests that our alumni will find a way to support changes that will improve the quality of the education we provide,” said Schapiro.

Since the College’s founding in 1793, alumni have played a huge role in developing Williams. The College’s endowment was only around $20 million in 1954, when the Trustees of the College first began to actively manage the fund.

“If there had been no alumni gifts made since 1954, then the endowment would [presently] be around $200-300 million,” said Birrell. “The combination of Alumni gifts to the endowment since 1954 and the subsequent appreciation of those gifts has meant the difference between an endowment of a couple of hundred million dollars and an endowment that is well over a billion dollars.”

Last year, the Alumni and Parents Funds raised about $7.5 million. These unrestricted funds were poured directly into the College’s operating budget to pay for the College’s highest-priority needs. In total, the development office raised over $40 million for Williams in the 2001 fiscal year.

“The Alumni Fund and the Parents Fund are really important,” said Hill. “They allow us to do things year in and year out that we wouldn’t be able to do.”

“Lots of colleges think big,” said Schapiro. “The difference here [at Williams] is that our alumni step forward to make our dreams a reality.”

Though the campaign has yet to be officially launched, the College is nearing the physical groundbreaking of several of these initiatives. “We are hoping to stay ahead of the projects because our best chances to raise large gifts for the capital projects is if the donors can be involved in the early stages so they can see how crucial their gift is for the project,” said Birrell.

According to Hill, the first priority for the College is the parking garage and the theatre and dance project. Hill also noted that the College has already raised close to $30 million for the projects.

“We will continue to plan other projects as we are confident that the money will be forthcoming,” she said.

One potential challenge which does not worry the development office is the current slowdown of the U.S. economy. “We know that the market is going to go up and going to go down, so you can’t really time a campaign,” said Birrell. “It is something that is taken into consideration when the College makes its long-run plans. The market has not affected our activities in getting the campaign moving at all.”

The College’s current comprehensive campaign is its first in nearly 10 years. The early phases of the last campaign began in 1986, and a large fraction of its proceeds were used for the construction of the Unified Science Center.

“We went public with an announced goal in October of 1989,” said Birrell, who added that the campaign ran publicly for a five and a half years. In that campaign, the College raised a total of $173.6 million. “When we completed t
he Third Century Campaign in 1993, it was at the time the largest comprehensive campaign total that any private liberal arts college had achieved,” said Birrell.

A newly created option for donations is the Socially Responsible Fund, which was recently established. The fund is the result of the work of Mike Levien ’01 and Becky Sandborn ’01. “In response to student interest, the trustees created a fund that would give alumni an opportunity to give gifts to something that they considered to be more ‘socially conscious’ than the endowment,” said Birrell. The fund presently has several thousand dollars.

“Gifts that are made by alums during the campaign that are directed to that fund will count towards our campaign total,” Birrell added. “We are happy to have that fund as part of our program and we expect that there will be some alumni who will be interested in making their gifts to it.”

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *