Williams campaign closes after raising $500 million

The Williams Campaign, a five-year fundraising effort aimed at supporting curricular initiatives, faculty expansion, improvement of student life and the completion of three major building projects, drew to a close on Dec. 31, 2008. Total gifts and pledges reached $500,164,885, far exceeding the original goal of $400 million, which was attained in June 2007.

Alumni proved to be the greatest source of fundraising, generating $417 million for the campaign, 83 percent of the total money raised. Williams parents contributed $32 million, which constituted 6.5 percent of the total.

“To exceed our goal by 25 percent is quite an accomplishment,” said Steve Birrell, vice president for Alumni Relations and Development. The campaign raised almost $300 million in “cash in.” The remainder of the funds was donated in the form of pledges, life income gifts, trusts and bequests. In other words, the College will receive the additional money over time. This will also allow the College to continue to implement improvements in the coming years.

The donations already received have provided support to students on financial aid, as well as subsidized “two and a half major building projects,” according to Birrell, referring to the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance, the Paresky Student Center and North and South Academic Buildings, which represent the first half of the Stetson-Sawyer project.

“I am especially happy that we raised so much money for financial aid,” said President Schapiro. “The current financial turmoil is leading many colleges to retreat from their generous aid packages. Not us.”
The closing of the Williams Campaign will culminate in a series of dinners in various cities across the country to thank major donors and campaign leaders. “In April, when the trustees and the executive committee of the Society of Alumni will be on campus for their regular meetings, we’re planning a weekend program, which will feature discussions on the impact of the results of the campaign, as well as discussion of issues of import to the College’s future,” Birrell said. “We will talk not about the dollars, but about what the dollars will enable us to do.”

Although Schapiro and the campaign leaders set forth an agenda for the campaign, donors have the opportunity to designate their gifts to certain areas of the College. “I work very closely with the Provost to make sure the gifts we’re raising are consistent with the College’s aims,” Birrell said, adding, “We guide the donors to meet the ideas of the College.”

“The most valuable gift is an unrestricted gift,” Birrell said. Donations to the Alumni Fund are unrestricted, as are gifts that go toward the endowment. Among restricted gifts, Birrell noted that there was “considerable donor interest in the Center for Developmental Economics.”

The original agenda for spending the $400 million campaign goal included $201.5 million towards curricular innovation, $142.5 million towards student life and $56 million in unrestricted gifts to support the initial two objectives. Numerous objectives fall under the umbrellas of “curricular innovation” and “student life.” The former encompasses the Stetson-Sawyer and ’62 Center building projects, as well as faculty expansion and curricular development, including expansion of the tutorial program. The latter consists of support for need-based scholarships, residential life initiatives and the building of the Paresky Center.
“The goals haven’t changed much,” Birrell said. “In the last year, after we hit $400 million, we also embraced the Weston Field project.”

Schapiro explained that the danger of moving forward future gifts was that “you might not raise much money over the next few years.” He added, “What’s worse is if you discount those late gifts in order to get them in on time – for example, turn a $2 million gift into $1 million in order to get it immediately. We didn’t do any of that. We hit the $500 million level and still left a healthy flow of post-campaign gifts.”
“My hope is that our new higher level of fundraising will continue long after the campaign,” Schapiro said.

The case statement for the campaign states, “The Williams Campaign has a grand yet simple purpose: to ensure that the remarkable young people who come to the College now and in the future will leave as well prepared to create, to analyze, and to inspire as the generations of alumni who have come before them.” Additionally, the statement claims, “Uncertain times demand decisive response.” Birrell called it an impressive accomplishment that the College was able to “finish as strongly as we did with the economic crisis in the last six months.”

“Morty’s leadership is the reason the campaign was so successful,” Birrell said. Looking ahead to the future of the College, he added, “A new plan is a new president’s charge.”

“I am sure that my successor will do his or her own strategic plan and then embark on another campaign in a few years,” Schapiro said. “My bet is that a number of the key initiatives that have been funded during this campaign will continue to be high priorities over the next decade, but that new things will come along.”