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Over seven years, NYU rakes in $3 billion

Eric Platt

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Published: Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Updated: Tuesday, September 9, 2008

After raising more than a million dollars a day for seven years, the Campaign for NYU has come to a close, raking in more than $3 billion in donations.

The campaign — NYU’s main fundraising drive during the period — shattered its initial goal of $2.5 billion with a preliminary total of $3.075 billion.

NYU President John Sexton said he was excited by the campaign’s success.

“I’m just absolutely thrilled by the completion of the campaign,” Sexton said. “When we conceived the campaign six years ago, it was just extraordinary; I mean, $1 million a day, 365 days a year, for seven years seemed almost preposterous.”

Debra LaMorte, senior vice president of development and alumni relations, who spearheaded the campaign with Sexton, said it was used to support a number of priorities, including financial aid, recruitment of new faculty, enhancements to buildings and facilities, academic programs and research initiatives.

“At the time we planned our campaign in 2001, $2.5 billion was an ambitious figure,” said LaMorte, who ran the campaign’s day-to-day operations. “And we succeeded in reaching our goal nine months ahead of schedule. We can say definitively that the campaign has had a tangible impact on our campus.”

Giving has increased steadily since the campaign began. In 2002, the campaign’s first full year, NYU raised $323.4 million. The preliminary total for 2008 is $862.9 million. According to preliminary figures, more than 164,000 donors gave to the Campaign, making over 472,000 contributions.

“One of the successes of the campaign has been in building community and in engaging different groups at the university in our mission,” LaMorte said. “We are grateful to everyone in our community who made it such a success: alumni, parents, students, faculty, deans, administrators, staff, corporations, foundations and friends.”

Another success of the campaign has been the growth of the Fund for NYU, the university’s chief source of unrestricted income. Unlike most donations, money given to the fund is not designated for a specific school or project; it has been used for several construction projects.

At the beginning of the campaign, the fund was raising about $10 million a year; by the 2008 fiscal year, it raised over $30 million.

Looking toward the future, LaMorte hopes that donations will continue at the pace they came in during the campaign.

“Although the campaign is over, our fundraising must continue in earnest,” LaMorte said. “We now need to continue to fund raise at the level we achieved during the campaign — $400 million per fiscal year.”

Though Sexton acknowledges that the campaign was a major success, he also sees room for growth as NYU moves forward.

“We still have many needs to fill; that is evident to everyone here,” he said. “This gives us a platform to continue the dream. It does create security for us when the world seems to be buffeted.”

The university is now launching NYU’s Call to Action, a new initiative to ask alumni and donors to support financial aid for students at NYU.

Other schools, such as the University of Pennsylvania, said they have also seen increases in donations through their own campaigns. 

Ron Ozio, a spokesman for Penn, said in three years the school has earned about 60 percent of its $3.5 billion goal for Making History: The Campaign for Penn, another seven-year fundraising effort.

Eric Platt is university editor. E-mail him at