Just in case anyone is in doubt about what is upper-most in the minds of university presidents, consider the case of John Sexton, President of NYU. It is easy to understand his problem, after all, since
"N.Y.U. is historically not a wealthy school compared with its elite competitors --- it has more than 40,000 students and an endowment of about $1.6 billion."
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/25/education/25nyu.html?ref=education December 25, 2006 Seeking $1 Million a Day, N.Y.U. Mines Personal Data for a Fund-Raising Edge By JONATHAN D. GLATER On a hilltop patio with a stunning view of the J. Paul Getty Museum, as guests sipped bubbling guava-pineapple martinis, John Sexton, the president of New York University, was far from home, chatting up the crowd.
The 70 guests assembled in Los Angeles for this event on a beautiful spring evening, had already given $5,000 or more to N.Y.U. The parking area at the top of the private street that led to the mansion, owned by Nancy Moonves, former wife of the television mogul Leslie Moonves (and mother of two N.Y.U. students), was filled with Lexus and Mercedes sedans as well as a sleek Ferrari.
?I thank you,? Dr. Sexton said, ?and I ask you to do 10 times as much as you are doing.?
Dr. Sexton, a big, bearded man with a penchant for hugging everyone in sight, is one of the new breed of university presidents ? fund-raiser in chief ? traveling far and wide to raise money. With his tie a little loose around his collar, he prowls moonlit patios and country clubs as he glad-hands with exhortations and jokes about his urban university: ?We don?t allow grass on campus, for God?s sake. It would distract you.?
It is all part of a $2.5 billion fund-raising effort, which requires N.Y.U. to bring in, on average, $1 million a day. Other universities are running far larger campaigns, with Cornell, Stanford and Columbia each seeking $4 billion or more.
Such campaigns are increasingly driven not only by old-fashioned appeals from the university president, but also by ever-growing development teams aided by outside consultants and marketers who scour for every graduate with money, however unheralded or low-profile. In the arsenal is software that makes it feasible to search databases containing ever-growing details on people?s wealth.
Some detractors say that such an arms race is changing the nature of universities. ?Everything turns on fund-raising,? said Pablo S. Eisenberg, a senior fellow at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute?s Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership in Washington. ?Other issues like academic performance, student involvement, the richness of the student experience, the role of the university as a member of the community, those things tend to be neglected.?
But university executives respond that the cost of education, and of providing financial aid, only rises, requiring an effective fund-raising office.
?Fund-raising can distort priorities if fund-raising is the be-all and end-all,? Dr. Sexton said. He added, ?Even as we set a dollar goal, every time a gift comes in, especially a major gift that has restrictions, it is tested by the question, ?Is this in service of the priorities we have set?? ?
N.Y.U. is historically not a wealthy school compared with its elite competitors ? it has more than 40,000 students and an endowment of about $1.6 billion.
As N.Y.U.?s storyteller in chief, Dr. Sexton consistently hits on certain themes: N.Y.U. is a scrappy underdog, making up for its lack of endowment with moxie and with its appealing home in New York City.
At one event for parents and alumni in suburban New Jersey, he worked the dark-paneled event hall at the Baltusrol Golf Club. Dr. Sexton thanked the organizers, recognized two alumni who had married each other and saluted the oldest alumnus present, who graduated more than 50 years ago.
When he speaks, he does so extemporaneously. But nearly every other aspect of the university?s fund-raising effort is carefully planned.
Dr. Sexton meets with the university?s head of development before events and discusses who will be there, their connections to the university, their philanthropic history.
The research process starts in N.Y.U.?s development office, a warren of cubicles where a full-time staff of 98 people and 38 interns scour for ?prospects.? The yearly budget for the fund-raising enterprise is $26 million.
Each day, Lekha Menon, the director of prospect management and research at N.Y.U., and four staff members pore over more than a dozen newspapers and electronic news and data sources, looking for names of alumni, parents of alumni or parents of students. They also look for notable donations to other causes, promotions, appointments to corporate boards and records of securities transactions.
?We go on slim clues,? Ms. Menon said. ?It?s sort of like detective work.?
Not all that work is done by the university itself. In 2003, at a cost of $50,000, N.Y.U. sent the names and last known addresses of 140,000 alumni identified as possible donors to an electronic screening company, Kintera, which specializes in gathering information from public records for nonprofit and educational institutions. The goal was to obtain current information on their worth, location and background.
Whenever the university holds fund-raising events outside New York, its development team examines the wealth of the local ZIP code and may check to see who in the alumni database lives there.
?There?s a real science to this,? said Debra LaMorte, who runs the development office.
Ms. LaMorte reviews the names that Ms. Menon and her staff find. Four times a year, she presents them to members of the university?s board, to see whether any trustees can provide an introduction.
The board?s campaign steering committee, made up of trustees, representatives from each N.Y.U. school, a parent representative, and the president of the alumni association, meets about three times a year, and at those meetings Ms. LaMorte also reads names of prospects to the trustees.
One meeting of the campaign steering committee this year took place in a conference room in the Midtown Manhattan law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, where Martin Lipton, the chairman of N.Y.U.?s board of trustees, is a founding partner. Most people on the committee and on the larger board were already substantial donors to the university.
Just before the end of the meeting, Ms. LaMorte read off the names of about 100 prospects; committee members knew five of them.
Even the meeting of fund-raisers turned into a fund-raising event: William J. Constantine, an investment consultant at Legg Mason and a member of the steering committee, left a note on Ms. LaMorte?s chair while she was out of the room, pledging to endow a scholarship at the university.
Even those who are not alumni are fair game. Dr. Sexton has pushed the importance of idea-driven gifts, looking for prospects who may have no ties to N.Y.U. but may appreciate particular goals of the university.
Joel S. Ehrenkranz, an N.Y.U. trustee and chairman of the campaign steering committee, explained the approach. ?The most important thing, critical, is to get them interested,? he said. ?It?s very hard to call someone and ask them for money, unless they have become or are involved.?
A $10 million gift from Catherine B. Reynolds, a pioneer in the private student loan market, demonstrates the power of personal connections. The wooing of Ms. Reynolds began when Jay Stein, chairman of Stein Mart, a department-store chain with locations in more than 25 states, who served with Ms. Reynolds on the board of the Kennedy Center in Washington, suggested that she meet with Dr. Sexton. Mr. Stein had already given millions to N.Y.U., although he is not an alumnus.
Sometimes it takes years before a relationship with a possible donor results in a gift. Andrew B. Rosengard, a graduate of N.Y.U.?s business school, started by giving gradually larger amounts to the university as he rose through the ranks at Cablevision. He began mentoring students at the business school. And he helped make sure that Cablevision hired students from the school for summer internships.
A few years ago, sometime after he gave $1,000, Mr. Rosengard recalled, a development officer from the business school, Debbie Niederhoffer, called him. (Development officers say that anyone who gives $1,000 can probably afford to give at least $5,000.)
Ms. Niederhoffer and Mr. Rosengard met and discussed other ways of supporting the school, and she outlined the possibility of giving enough money to endow a scholarship. He committed to giving $100,000 over 10 years, creating a scholarship that would give $5,000 to a student every year.
?A great thing that?s happened is, having created the scholarship, Debbie didn?t disappear,? said Mr. Rosengard, who left Cablevision in 2004. They talk at least once a month, he said, he has received invitations to dinners with other donors and university officials and he has met the scholarship recipients.
Much of the university?s donor outreach effort is relatively new. When Ms. LaMorte arrived in 2002, the development and alumni relations office did not put out an alumni magazine. The university did not know how to reach more than half of its 350,000 alumni. Efforts to court parents and alumni outside the immediate New York area were rare.
Now, the office does all those things and sets up events with university deans and top executives, especially Dr. Sexton, nationwide. Two development officers in New York are assigned to fund-raising in California. The university now also has reliable addresses for about 325,000 of its graduates.
Ms. LaMorte, a lawyer, was recruited to help with fund-raising in the early 1990s by Dr. Sexton, at the time the dean of N.Y.U.?s law school, after she sold the small public company she ran, Computer Doctor, which provided computer maintenance services. When Dr. Sexton moved from the law school to the university president?s office, she moved too.
Ms. LaMorte keeps a piece of pipe on her desk to remind her of the importance of keeping money coming to the university, in the pipeline. ?If I don?t make my number,? she said, ?something is not going to happen.?