Oxford University campaign reaches £1bn through ‘donor-centric’ approach

Oxford University campaign reaches £1bn through ‘donor-centric’ approach


Oxford University’s international £1.25bn fundraising campaign has reached a £1bn milestone in record time and despite the global financial crisis owing to ‘genuine’ and ‘consistent’ relationships with its donors and a committed network of supporters across the world, says director of development Sue Cunningham.

Oxford Thinking: The Campaign for the University of Oxford is the largest fundraising campaign in European university history and one of the largest in the world, and funds raised will support world-class teaching, research and facilities. Fundraising began in August 2004, and by the official launch of the campaign in May 2008, £575m had been raised. In the last year alone it has raised more than £230m.

Sue Cunningham, who has been at Oxford for nine years, says: “It is the integrity, consistency and genuine nature of the relationships we develop with all our donors – alumni and non alumni – over a long time, as well as the level of commitment of our philanthropist supporters who have engaged their networks across the globe, that are the key factors to the success of our campaign.

Many of our alumni supporters have developed strong friendships with the academics who taught them as undergraduates.

And in developing new relationships we allow the time to gain a deep understanding of our supporters and work to develop an appropriate response that reflects their wishes to mutual benefit. We feel it’s critical to make sure our response and our thanks is appropriate to each supporter.”

Oxford’s vice-chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, called the generosity of donors “fundamental to Oxford’s future” in a time of reduced government funding.

He said: “It is clear from the Comprehensive Spending Review and the Browne Review recommendations that, under any future funding regime, Oxford is going to have to do all it can to find additional resources. If we believe strongly that the tutorial system is the best way to nurture maturing minds, we are going to have to find ways of making it more financially sustainable. Given the major recent cuts in government funding for teaching, [philanthropists] have a particular role to play in the preservation of the tutorial system.”

As the campaign passes the £1bn milestone, philanthropist Dame Vivien Duffield DBE, chair of Oxford Thinking since the official launch in May 2008, has decided to step down.

Duffield has played a pivotal role in numerous successful fundraising campaigns in addition to the Oxford Thinking Campaign, including for the Royal Opera House, the Wishing Well Appeal for Great Ormond Street Hospital, and the South Bank Centre. She is an Oxford alumna, having studied at Lady Margaret Hall. As well as being Chair of the Campaign she has donated herself: £5.1m from the Clore Duffield Foundation to be divided between Lady Margaret Hall, graduate scholarships in the Humanities, the Oxford Institute of Ageing, the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, and the Ashmolean Museum.

Dame Vivien said: “This is tremendous milestone, and the fact that such an astonishing target has been reached in such a difficult climate is a testament to all that Oxford has been, is now, and will continue to be for future generations. This represents a great sum of money for a truly great institution. I am deeply grateful to all those donors, alumni and friends who have helped us to reach this vital stage in our Campaign.

Professor Hamilton said: “We would not be at this landmark point without the extraordinary talents of Dame Vivien Duffield: she has helped bring Oxford Thinking very far, and very fast. Her dynamism and distinctive style have helped bring us to raise a billion in only just over six years of fundraising, in a global economic downturn. We thank her enormously for the time and remarkable energy she has brought to this Campaign.”

The impact of Oxford Thinking is already transforming Oxford life:

This month, the first ever Indigenous Australian students started studying at Oxford thanks to scholarships from the Charlie Perkins Trust, supported by the Australian and British governments, Rio Tinto and Quantas. They join numerous other students supported by new scholarships raised through the Campaign.

The only research in the UK into a very rare, incurable condition that turns muscle into bone (fibrodysplasia ossificans progressive) is continuing at Oxford thanks to a donation from Richard Simcox.

Last month the Ashmolean Museum welcomed its millionth visitor since its widely acclaimed redevelopment, which had been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Linbury Trust, and numerous other trusts, foundations and individuals.

Oxford’s study of China has received a major boost with a £10m donation from Dickson Poon towards a dedicated building for the new Oxford University China Centre at St Hugh’s College.