University Sees Record Giving
Two superlative years for finances, admissions| From BU Today | By Rich Barlow
President Robert A. Brown with students before the Senior Breakfast in May. The Class of 2011 set a donor record to the Class Gift campaign. Photo by Cydney Scott
Defying an economy still in the doldrums, BU received an unprecedented $89.5 million from donors in the fiscal year ending June 30, making it the second record-breaking year in a row.
The number of alumni donors jumped 12 percent, meaning that more than 2,700 additional people gave to their alma mater in fiscal 2011 than did in the previous year. Gifts to the Annual Fund, which come from donors who don’t restrict the use of the money, also shattered a record, amounting to $7.85 million of the $89.5 million total. The support extends to the newest alumni: a record number of donors in the Class of 2011 gave to their Class Gift campaign.
“The national average of alumni participation has been eroding steadily,” says Scott Nichols, senior vice president for development and alumni relations. “A net gain of 2,700 donors not only reverses that trend, but now we’re gaining ground.”
The donations cap a string of best-evers for the University in the last two years: the entering Class of 2015 is the most academically competitive in BU’s history, while fiscal year 2010 saw the University post record operating reserves and donor pledges. The confluence of academic and financial success is no accident, according to Nichols.
“People see BU is a really good investment right now,” he says. “Money, particularly in higher education, is attracted by quality and strength. There’s a point of pride; people want to know that BU is accomplishing what traditional universities accomplish, which is great teaching, great research, great service. At the end of the day, what happened in the classroom makes for supportive alumni.”
The University’s sound financial footing and competitive admissions tell alumni that BU’s academic programs are getting even better, Nichols says. He also credits President Robert A. Brown’s increased outreach efforts to alumni.
“The University’s made an important investment in alumni and development work,” he says. “It’s not just money and bodies; the president has made it a priority, as has the Board of Trustees—engaging, communicating across the board.” Before Brown became president, in September 2005, the University had received only one gift of more than $10 million from an individual in its history. It has tallied four such gifts since, and a fifth, to the T. George and Ernestine O’Connell (CAS’15) Memorial Scholarship, increased the scholarship fund by $7.8 million, from less than $1 million.
"People see BU is a really good investment right now," says Scott Nichols, senior vice president for development and alumni relations.
In addition, alumni are becoming more engaged in the University. In fiscal 2011, more than 41,000 alumni and friends attended over 800 BU meetings and events globally. “We estimate that was around 6,000 when Bob Brown became president,” says Nichols.
“I am heartened by the increased support of the University by our alumni and friends, especially during such difficult economic times,” Brown says. “This support, coupled with our careful financial management, will increase the breadth and quality of our academic programs. The increase in the number of alumni donors is very gratifying and critically important to the future of Boston University.”
As BU’s student body becomes more international, alumni abroad have become crucial backers of the University, Nichols says: “We have 20,000 alums outside the United States. They’re disproportionately successful. As we’ve done outreach, they’ve responded magnificently. Our most active alumni club in the world is Korea. They have two orchestras and a weekly social gathering.” A two-year-old international advisory board—meeting most recently in Geneva in June—is a key liaison with BU’s foreign graduates.
Besides alumni support, the amount of money given to the University by its trustees rose 62 percent in fiscal 2011, to $13.3 million. Among the highlights of the year was a pledge from trustee Bahaa Hariri (SMG’90) for a new computation institute, which opened recently.
BU is in the early mapping stages of a fundraising campaign and is exploring the feasibility of targets up to $1 billion.