The management of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has set a $1 billion target for donations over the next seven years. The university announced the target during a conference of its board of governors in Jerusalem yesterday, which is convening this week in celebration of the 100th anniversary of laying the Hebrew University's cornerstone. 350 donors and partners from all over the world are attending the celebrations. The 2025 target for raising the money coincides with the 100th anniversary of the completion of Hebrew University's construction.
Hebrew University also announced a crowdfunding campaign - the first of its kind for an academic institution in Israel. The university's previous fundraising campaign raised $1 billion in 10 years, so it will have to make strenuous efforts to reach its new target. Hebrew University said that the cost of raising the donations was 20%. Donations covered 13% of Hebrew University's budget last year - $118 million out of its total $3 billion budget.
Before setting a new target for its fundraising, Hebrew University conducted extensive staff work to map the needs for which it will use the money. The university's various faculties and research institutes presented their vision to the university's management, which then designed its priorities. The plan, which was presented to the university's board of trustees, included a $250 million allocation for high tech, $216 million for health, $115 for the university's Tikun Olam program, etc.
"Donations today are very specific. People want to know exactly where the money they donate is going and whether it is being used effectively. Even when a donor gives a student a scholarship, he wants to get to know him and hear about his progress," Hebrew University VP advancement and external relations Yossi Gal told "Globes." Gal is a former Ministry of Foreign Affairs director general and Israel Ambassador to France and the Netherlands.
Commenting on Hebrew University's crowdfunding campaign scheduled over the next six weeks, Gal said that in the US the practice was quite acceptable. "We think it's necessary to do new things and expand the audience interested in what the university is doing. It's more than money and is designed to enable more people to be part of the experience. People want to contribute to a better world. From my perspective, any donation, even the smallest, is very significant because in the end, you need these sources in order to make progress in science, whether you help a student with limited ability or whether you help found a brain research institute.
"One of the things I'm glad about is that a very great number of people care about high-quality education. Our challenge is to try to reach more and more children and grandchildren of the donors. They believe in philanthropy but you're competing with other institutions in this field and with the internal needs of their community overseas. The vast majority of our donors are Jews, mostly elderly, but we're trying to reach the young people, too, not necessarily the children of the elderly donors."
"Globes": What distinguishes the older donors from the younger ones?
Gal: "The connection of the parents to Israel is an emotional and instinctive one and they have more commitment, but today Israel is a very advanced country with a good solid economy. The emotional element is less dramatic. What's most important for the younger generation is the contribution to academic excellence and magic words such as innovation, entrepreneurship, and the great inventions that have come from Hebrew University."
Do you have to donate to an Israeli university for innovation? You can donate to MIT or Harvard.
"You're right. We see the resources being invested in universities and research in China and also in the leading universities in the US. The "New York Times," however, recently published a rating showing that we were in 91-100 place in the world in prestige and reputation. Our academic excellence is still an important factor in obtaining donations."
Does Israel's status in the world affect fundraising?
"That's a good question. When I travel around the world, I hear quite a few critical remarks about Israel from both sides of various aspects of policy, from the connection with Diaspora Jews to the political sphere. At the same time, I don't think it affects the donors' identification with Hebrew University or Israeli universities in general."
Fundraising is also following the university's $2.7-billion 10-year recovery and cost-cutting program. In the framework of this program, which the university signed in late February, it also undertook to increase its means of raising donations. A substantial proportion of the $1.8 billion debt accumulated by the university came from improper management of the donations it received. Money was removed from the perpetual bonds (bonds in which only the returns on the investment can be used), use was made of donations for purposes other than those for which they were designated, and donations were rolled over from year to year and project to project.
Does the university's financial policy affect its fundraising?
"I think that the recovery agreement is a very important agreement and provides the university with support. I don't feel that it has affected our donations; on the contrary, there is a feeling that there is even greater commitment of our large donors to helping the university move forward. We're very transparent with our donors."
Are you also having success in raising money from Israeli donors?
"This is one of the things we have invested in. Israelis are currently responsible for only 5% of total donations, but the trend is upward, both because the economic situation in Israel is good and because of the high-tech industry. When you look at the major universities in the US, graduates identify more with the universities they studied at because those were the most significant years for them, while Israelis spend those years in the army. There is a very encouraging beginning of a change, however, and more and more Israeli groups are willing to donate. This is very important to me, so that I can show our friends overseas that we're also making an effort in Israel."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on June 11, 2018
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