Frequently Asked Questions About Fundraising

The following are frequently asked questions. If you don't see your question, please send an email with your inquiry to Chris Clarke, our leader in fundraising, and we will get both your question and answer posted.

What is a restricted versus an unrestricted gift? Why is this important?

A restricted gift is one that is directed at a specific program or purpose that is defined by the donor. The gift cannot be used for any other purpose. Unrestricted gifts, however, can be applied to the areas of greatest need and new program innovation in Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, and are often referred to in day-to-day conversation at Duke as discretionary funds.

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What is the Annual Fund, and why is it important to the college??

The Annual Fund comprises unrestricted gifts to Trinity College of Arts & Sciences. After revenues from undergraduate tuition, endowment income and indirect cost recovery, the Annual Fund is the 4th largest source of income to the college. The Annual Fund for TCA&S is managed by Duke’s central Development and starts with a $0.00 balance each fiscal year. The primary contributors to the Annual Fund are Duke alumni and parents.

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Why can’t my department solicit our alumni directly?

In 2012, only 12% of the graduating class of undergraduates had just one major. What is striking is that 88% of the class had a combination of majors, minors and certificates. If each department and program solicit “their” alumni, there is the potential for multiple groups to be soliciting an individual at the same time, with no awareness of what each other is doing. This is the primary driver for why Duke Development uses a relationship management system to keep track of conversations between Duke and our alumni and friends. Note – this is also considered a best practice in the field of fundraising.

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What do I do when a donor is interested in giving to my department or program?

Contact Chris Clarke at to begin work on an endowment or gift agreement. Be sure to follow all procedures for gift announcements to protect your relationship with the donor.

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I don’t understand the relationship between the current fundraising campaign and the school’s budget. Can you explain?

Campaigns are very much about planning for the future and will not solve the budget concerns of today. Second, campaign gifts are nearly always pledges that will be paid to Duke over a period of time, generally five years. Previous campaign gifts and the Annual Fund are what support many of our current activities and have put Duke on the upward trajectory we enjoy today. Our hard work in the Duke Forward campaign <> will reap benefits for us in the years to come.

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What is an endowment? How is that money spent?

Endowments are created from donor commitments, and can be restricted or unrestricted. Endowment gifts are paid to Duke over a period of time, generally five years. So, roughly five years AFTER a pledge agreement is signed, TCA&S has funds to spend. Additionally, endowments are meant to last forever—not to be spent down to zero. So we limit how much principal is spent, and withdraw income on a rolling three-year average to minimize the effect of stock market fluctuations. To put this into perspective, a $2.5 million endowed professorship doesn’t mean there is $2.5 million to spend—instead, the endowment will generate an expendable income of ~ $87,500 on an annual basis to provide budget relief against a faculty member’s salary once the endowment is fully funded by the donor. Learn more about Duke University's endowment.

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