The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



ND collects nearly $2 billion

Megan Doyle | Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Despite the economic downturn in recent years, the Development Office will finish its current campaign above its goal for financial donations to the University, and the Student Development Committee thanked the University’s generous graduates Monday.

The 2010 Stewardship Report from the Development Office reported $227.5 million was donated to the University from 2009 to 2010.

Notre Dame alumni donated over $116 million of those funds, the report said.

“We are fortunate that our alumni giving rate has always been — in the past 20 and plus years — in the top three schools in the country,” Lou Nanni, vice president of University Relations, said. “Princeton, Dartmouth and Notre Dame are in the mix for the highest alumni giving rates.”

Sylvia Banda, Maria Sellers and Maggie Nettesheim, co-chairs of the Student Development Committee organized “Thanksgiving in February,” a chance for students to write thank-you notes to alumni donors.

“We run ‘Thanksgiving in February’ to thank alumni for their monetary gifts to the University,” Banda said. “Our goal for this year is to send over 1,000 thank-you notes.”

The committee set up thank-you notes on the first floor of LaFortune Student Center for students to fill out as they pass through the building. Banda said each student receives the name of a donor and writes a personal letter for that person.

“The letters are signed by a student,” Sellers said. “Each letter tells their personal story, their year and their major. It lets donors know their dollars are being put to good use.”

The Spirit of Notre Dame campaign began quietly in July 2004, Nanni said. Key donors made significant lead gifts to the University during the campaign’s first three years, and the project was officially unveiled on a large scale in May 2007.

The seven-year campaign set a goal for $1.5 billion, Nanni said.

“To date, we have raised about $1,946,000,000,” he said. “We are about four and a half months from completing the campaign.”

Economic concerns helped the Development Office make better strategic decisions, Nanni said.

“We saw what most other schools saw,” he said. “We saw a drop in donations since 2008 that was about a 20 to 25 percent range across the board.”

If the Spirit of Notre Dame Campaign surpasses $2 billion by its end, Notre Dame will be the first school in higher education without a medical school to reach this mark, Nanni said.

The Development has two divisions.

“One division would be what we could call advancement services and communications. This would include many of the support operations,” Nanni said. “The other division would be all of our fundraisers that work on cultivating one-to-one relationships, that work with individuals, families, corporate entities and foundations. They would work on gifts that would be multi-year gifts of $100,000 and above.”

The Annual Fund also falls under this first division, Nanni said. This fund includes all gifts collected on a smaller scale from outreach to over 250,000 alumni, parents and friends of the University. Donors to the Annual Fund contribute through the Internet, mailings, the Phone Center and the Alumni Association. The Annual Fund also includes giving societies that specifically direct member gifts to certain areas of campus life.

“We have done a very good job with our Internet approach,” he said. “In the last couple of years we have finished second in the nation after Stanford in terms of the total amounts of funds raised via the Internet.”

Donors can direct their gifts to a specific area of spending, such as a scholarship or a particular building project.

“An unrestricted gift is the most pliable,” he said. “It allows us to address what the most critical priorities, needs and opportunities are at the University.”

Financial aid is the first priority for the Development Office, Nanni said. The Admissions Department reviews applications from prospective students on a need-blind basis, and Nanni said the University promised to meet 100 percent of the demonstrated financial need for its students.

“Because of that policy, it has forced us to raise more money and generate more resources to help make a Notre Dame education more accessible,” he said.

Gifts may also be directed to programs for undergraduate research funding, academic programs, endowed professorships, library improvements, student life and athletic facilities.

“Every student, even as a full-paying student, is receiving financial aid,” Nanni said. “The annual operating budget for the University is $1 billion, and even if every student paid full tuition, these funds would still not come close to the billion dollar cost. So we have to raise money.”

Nanni said the Development Office is inspired by the unique place Notre Dame occupies in higher education.

“The same cohort of schools has been ranked in the top 20 undergraduate universities, and Notre Dame has been and continues to be the only school on that list that has a religious affiliation,” he said. “What we are about is a unique experiment in higher education. We feel very committed to preserving and strengthening Notre Dame’s niche in the church and in the world of higher education.”