This is a section of Cooper Union's Financial FAQ. Click here to read the rest of the document.

What is the “cost to raise a dollar” in Development?

For FY 12 it was approximately 26 cents. The overall national average “cost to raise a dollar” (CTRD) is 20 cents – or, 80 cents of every dollar raised goes to the charitable purpose/programs (see James Greenfield, “Fund-Raising: Evaluating and Managing the Fund Development Process,” 1999).

Average cost for non-profits varies depending on the fund-raising method (for example, capital campaign/major gifts (5 to 10 cents), planned giving (26 cents), direct mail renewal (20 cents) and acquisition ($1-1.25), benefit/special events (50 cents).  The average cost for The Cooper Union (approximately 26 cents) may be higher than the national average because of a relatively smaller pool of large gifts (7 figures and above) compared with other leading non-profit educational institutions, and  due to the fact that The Cooper Union is not currently in a capital campaign.

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What is The Cooper Union’s investment in the Office of Alumni Affairs and Development?

Derek Wittner joined The Cooper Union in the summer of 2010 with a mandate to create a professional development office and increase financial support for the institution. Wittner is Vice President for Alumni Affairs and Development. 

With a staff of 20 ( 4 in Alumni Affairs  and 16 in Development), Wittner and his team have set a record for the Annual Fund at $3.1 million in FY 12, a 41% increase over the previous year.   New efforts have generated increased results in participation and funds raised with alumni, parents, students and friends. Because of the Annual Fund success, President Jamshed Bharucha has adjusted Development’s previous year-to-year goal of a 3 percent increase to a 5 percent increase for 10 years beginning in FY 13.  Four open positions in Development are unfilled (as of August 2012), including the Director of Institutional Grants position because of Cooper Union’s financial situation.  No successful non-profit raises philanthropic contributions at the level that Cooper Union does – and aspires to – without significant investments in fund-raising professionals and practices. The level of such investments reflects a balance between immediate financial challenges and long-term cultivation opportunities.

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What is the alumni participation rate in the Annual Fund?

In FY 12, approximately 25 percent of Cooper alumni gave to the Annual Fund, up from 22 percent in FY 11.  Annual giving participation reached a high of 30 percent in 2002.  Comparatively, in FY11, alumni participation at Carleton College was approximately 61 percent and at Princeton University, Middlebury College and Amherst it was 60 percent.

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What would it take to solve the deficit problem with alumni contributions?

In FY 12, 25 percent of living alumni participated in the annual fund, contributing $2.1 million dollars. The average contribution per participating alumnus was $659.   With a cash deficit projected to be $12 million in 2018, in order to close the deficit at the existing alumni participation rate the average annual gift per alumnus would have to increase by roughly $3,071 to $3,730 per alumnus.  If alumni participation increased to 50 percent, the average gift per alumnus would need to be $1,865; at 75 percent, $1,243; and if every living alumnus participated in the annual fund, the average gift per alumnus would need to be $933 to cover the anticipated operating deficit.

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Don’t we raise more in donations than just the Annual Fund?

Yes. Annual Fund donations (unrestricted, expendable gifts) go directly toward covering existing operating costs. Other gifts are restricted by the donor for use in funding specific programs and projects. Donors may also chose to have their gifts added to the endowment, in which case the value of the principal of the gift is maintained in perpetuity, restricting the institution to spending only a small portion of the value of the fund each year as set by the endowment spending policy. Other expendable gifts go toward capital or other projects over and above routine operating costs. Furthermore, many planned gifts, including bequest intentions and trusts, take years to mature. However, only expendable gifts count fully toward reducing the existing operating cash shortfall. In FY 12, annual fund giving was $3.1 million; all other gifts received amounted to $6.6 million, for a total FY12 Development total of $9.7 million altogether.

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What is being done to grow Cooper’s fundraising efforts?

Demonstrating a focus on fundraising for Cooper, the Board of Trustees in 2010 authorized funding for a vice president for development, which previously had been subsumed in the department of External Affairs.  The hiring of new staff, replacing those who had left Cooper, with professionals experienced specifically in fundraising was designed to bring national best practices to Cooper.  In only its first full year (FY 12), this initiative included effective segmented direct mail and telemarketing appeals, a dedicated approach to major gifts and cultivation of major gift prospects, deployment of sophisticated research tools, invigorated outreach to alumni and parents around the country and the support of affinity groups.  These practices, to name only a few, will take root and grow over the years ahead; but even with results from only their recent introduction, the potential opportunity for Cooper to maximize support is clear: record annual giving, significantly increased support from parents and a notable increase in participation.

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When was Cooper’s last capital campaign?

The 2001-2011 capital campaign raised $197 million out of a $250 million goal, including pledges and bequest expectancies.  This was a “comprehensive” campaign and included Annual Fund giving. The economic downturn of 2008 depressed contributions and reduced the value of financial investments held in the endowment.

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  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.