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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

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The GW Hatchet

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Fundraising slips on brink of massive campaign

Correction appended

Donations to the University dropped for the first time in five years, just as GW prepares to launch its largest fundraising campaign to date.

The University raised $103 million over the last fiscal year, a 14 percent decline from last year’s record fundraising haul, which included one of the biggest gifts in GW’s history.

It is the first decline under Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Mike Morsberger, who has grown GW’s fundraising staff by 30 percent since he came aboard in 2010. The number of staffers tripled between 2005 and 2009.

Morsberger attributed the decrease to an inflated total last year, when the University tallied a $25 million donation to establish the GW Museum and the Textile Museum, bringing the total fundraising to $120 million.

“It’s a rather extraordinary gift and an extraordinary partnership. We don’t expect those every year,” Morsberger said. “We’re always gunning for big gifts and I’m always hoping that we break a record again, but we feel pretty good about the $103 million.”

The rate of fundraising began to slow during fiscal year 2012, after two years of double-digit growth.

Both the 2012 and 2013 fundraising totals will count as part of the University’s massive years-long fundraising campaign, which will likely be launched within the next year. That heavy fundraising will support GW’s 10-year strategic plan, which was approved in May.

GW’s total this year is less than what the Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s Fundraising Index projected schools nationwide would see. It estimated schools would see a 7.1 percent growth from the year before.

But Lee Gardner, a senior editor at the Chronicle of Higher Education who covers finance, said while fundraising totals are on the rise nationally, GW’s drop is “not to the degree that it’s concerning.” He also said one-time gifts make it difficult to compare school’s fundraising totals from year to year because they “skew” totals.

“A big gift will make you seem like you have a great year, but if you do well all things considered but don’t have an enormous gift, you still may have done well, but not as well,” Gardner said. “While no one wants to turn down a large gift, it can make other years look more feeble in comparison.”

University President Steven Knapp has made fundraising a priority since he arrived in 2007, tying deans’ job performances to pulling in donor dollars. Donations more than doubled last year from Knapp’s first year when total donations totaled a paltry $58 million.

But compared to other institutions, which have spent decades building up its fundraising base, particularly among alumni, GW’s fundraising rates are far behind.

The year also brought some good news for GW’s fundraising team.

Patty Danver, a spokeswoman in the Division of Development and Alumni Relations, added that the number of parents who donated to GW nearly tripled after the office increased visits and mailings to students’ families. Staffers also targeted parents based on region.

GW officials and staff members also took 5,500 donor visits, about a 27 percent increase from the year before, Danver said.

The amount of money raised from annual gifts also increased by $2 million, reaching an all-time high at $12.8 million in annual gifts.

Morsberger also noted that total gifts in cash was up this year by $10 million dollars, which is an 18 percent increase from fiscal year 2012. He attributed the $85 million in cash on hand mainly to people paying off commitments more quickly.

This article was updated Aug. 26 at 12:02 p.m. to reflect the following:

Due to an editing error, The Hatchet incorrectly reported that fundraising staff tripled since Mike Morsberger arrived at GW in 2010. In fact, it tripled during the four years before he arrived and only increased by 30 percent since he was hired.

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