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The University has shattered its annual fundraising record of $89 million, set in fiscal year 2011, pulling in $116.9 million in fiscal year 2013. That figure pushes the total of all contributions to the Campaign for Boston University to $532.5 million, just past the halfway mark of the $1 billion campaign less than a year after its public launch.

“This last year was a historic one for Boston University fundraising,” says President Robert A. Brown. “The launch of our comprehensive campaign certainly is creating tremendous momentum for the University. Our alumni and friends are participating in growing numbers, rallying around our plan for growing the quality and impact of the University in undergraduate and graduate education and research.”

Scott Nichols, senior vice president for development and alumni relations, says BU’s billion-dollar goal was considered ambitious just one year ago, because no university had ever set so high a target for its first formal campaign. He says that while the campaign officially opened last fall, a “quiet” period, begun three years ago, brought in some major gifts: $25 million from trustee Rajen Kilachand (GSM’74) to endow the Arvind and Chandan Nandlal Kilachand Honors College and $15 million from trustee Bahaa Hariri (SMG’90) to establish the Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering. These and other significant contributions increased the campaign total to $380 million just before the public launch.

“Most campaigns hit a lull,” Nichols says. “We should have hit it by now.” And while he is pleased that momentum remains strong, the former dean for development at Harvard Law School knows from experience that it’s unwise to become too confident. “You never know what economic cycles may give you,” he says.


Scott Nichols, senior vice president for development and alumni relations, says BU’s billion-dollar goal was considered ambitious just one year ago, because no other university had set so high a target for its first official campaign. Photo by Michael Lutchen

“So many people are responsible for our success that it is difficult to single out one factor that is responsible,” says Brown. “One factor that I do think is an advantage for us is that the campaign is built around the plan laid out in Choosing To Be Great, which describes the investments we are making in the University. The campaign is making possible the acceleration of this plan, and the results are quickly being felt all across the University, from the new medical school residence to the New Balance Field to the many new endowed professors and the scholarships for student financial aid.”

Nichols credits Brown for the campaign’s early success, and commends trustees and overseers for backing the move in word and deed—collectively, they have pledged $160 million. Equally, alumni have taken up the cause, telling Nichols and his staff that they received an excellent education at BU and have used it to make an impact. They’ve said that they have faith in Brown and the trustees and that the campaign’s message resonates.

He points out that the University has more than 300,000 alumni around the world, and that “it’s impossible for us to go to any major city on the planet and not run into some important BU people who’ve never been asked to step up and support the place with some significant gifts. Some of them want to know where we’ve been for 20 or 30 years.” BU has been blessed with an extraordinarily generous international community, Nichols says, one whose gifts account for 16 percent of contributions, compared with an average of around 2 percent for most universities.

The campaign is also distinguished by the number, rather than the size, of gifts. BU received 600 commitments of $100,000 or more, 103 of which were for at least $1 million.

The Century Challenge has raised $14 million in support of undergraduate scholarships. Nichols says Brown came up with the program, which guarantees that if a donor contributes $100,000 or more to establish an endowed undergraduate scholarship fund, the University will match the payout from that fund every year for 100 years (up to a maximum of $100 million). “From the donor perspective,” he says, “it doubles the impact of the gift.”

In addition to funding scholarships, campaign funds will eventually be used to increase the number of endowed professorships (with 39 positions already created since the campaign began), support research, and boost special programs, such as career services, libraries, and athletics.

The campaign will also support the improvement of campus facilities, a key element in burnishing the University’s status as a research institution.