Institute launches $5 billion comprehensive campaign

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The MIT Campaign for a Better World, launched today, seeks to raise $5 billion that will go to funding development of six key pillars.
Courtesy of MIT Campaign for a Better World

The MIT Campaign for a Better World, officially launched May 6, seeks $5 billion and begins the public phase with $2.6 billion already received or pledged since the campaign’s quiet phase began in 2011.

The initiative, which coincides with the Institute’s 100th anniversary in Cambridge, is organized around six priorities: fundamental scientific research, health of the planet, human health, innovation and entrepreneurship, education in the 21st century, and the “MIT Core,” which includes financial aid, new residential spaces, and research facilities on campus.

MIT has already silently raised $2.6 billion toward the campaign from more than 77,000 donors. This initial amount exceeds the total raised during MIT’s previous capital campaign, which ran from 1997 to 2004.

Of the amount raised so far, 46 percent has come from alumni ($1.24 billion) and 27 percent from other individuals ($717 million). Foundations have donated 18 percent ($470 million) and corporations have given nine percent ($252 million), according to MIT’s Office of Resource Development.

Some of these donors will convene on campus this weekend for a gala dinner and other festivities as part of MIT’s Moving Day celebrating the centennial.

“Many people connect a campaign as a campaign for the institution,” said President L. Rafael Reif in an interview with The Tech. “I think that the people of MIT would wrestle [with that], internally … We want to be as strong as we can, but for a purpose, and the purpose is to do something good for the world.”

“That’s very uniquely MIT. I don’t find that way of doing things, that way of thinking, anywhere else on the planet.”

Reif said he has been in close contact with deans, department heads, and faculty, to identify future projects that are well aligned with the pillars of the campaign. He said he is looking for the “dreams” that faculty are pursuing to better the world.

Looking ahead, the campaign’s money will fund the renovation of dorms and construction of new dorms, as well as the development of athletic facilities and makerspaces. “Those are things we know we have to do,” said Reif, given the support they’ve garnered from students.

MIT’s climate action plan, which includes funding eight new low-carbon energy research centers, and the Integrated Learning Initiative, which studies the way people learn effectively, are two of the projects started in the past year that are funded in part by the campaign.

The new MIT.nano building being erected near the Great Dome is also funded through the campaign. It is expected to cost $350 million and be finished by 2018.

This fundraising campaign began back in July 2011 under the leadership of then-President Susan Hockfield and Chairman of the Corporation John Reed ’61, both of whom have since left their positions. The campaign began in a “quiet phase,” in which individual donors were contacted but the campaign itself was not made broadly public.

One of the reasons Hockfield listed for her resignation in February 2012 was that staying on would mean sticking through the entirety of the campaign, which she thought could take eight years. She said at the time that “it would be best for the Institute to begin this next chapter with new leadership.”

Reif entered office in July 2012 and continued the work of meeting with potential donors. Although the fundraising had begun in 2011, Reif said the campaign, as a unified message, started much later.

Two years after Reif became president, another transition took place as Robert B. Millard ’73 succeeded Reed as Chairman.

Reif said these two transitions, however, were “very smooth” given that all four of them work well together.

On the campaign’s website, Reif wrote that “MIT’s greatest invention may be itself — an unusual concentration of unusual talent, restlessly reinventing itself on a mission to make a better world.”

The additional capital will play an important role in continuing to attract that “unusual talent” through financial aid for its undergraduate students, Reif said.

“Clearly we have plenty of great people [applying]. I want everyone to make decisions … based just on where they want to be, and not because somebody offers them more money.”

“Unfortunately, [many people] don’t have the money or family income to pay, and then they have to decide based on that, and I want to eradicate that. I want to avoid that for MIT.”

Already in the upcoming academic year, the undergraduate financial aid budget will increase by 10.4%, but Reif suggested that was only the beginning.

“I want to make sure [students] have the money so that there is not an issue,” Reif said. “We are on a path to make sure that money is not the reason you don’t come to MIT.”