Unrestricted Gifts, Unlimited Potential

Over the life of the Campaign for a Better World, which formally ran from June 2011 to July 2021, MIT alumni and friends contributed $881M in unrestricted funds to the Institute, representing a 67% increase in unrestricted giving compared to the previous decade. Gifts such as these are MIT’s “essential fuel,” said President L. Rafael Reif, “enabling us to meet the core needs of a thriving institution, seize unexpected opportunities, and cultivate an environment of academic excellence and bold innovation for our students.”

Flexible funding has long helped MIT stand firm in its commitment to undergraduate support, ensuring that every undergraduate who has earned admission can enroll, regardless of family financial circumstances. In 2020–’21, the unrestricted budget covered almost a third of MIT’s undergraduate financial aid.

“MIT’s strength derives from its students, and our undergraduates depend on MIT’s ability to help meet their financial needs,” says Stuart Schmill ’86, dean of admissions and student financial services. “Our scholarship support is so robust because of the generosity of our alumni and friends who make gifts in a variety of ways.”

In contributing to MIT’s strong financial foundation, unrestricted giving during the Campaign also helped the Institute realize opportunities such as the development in Kendall Square of a new innovation and entrepreneurship hub known as MIT InnovationHQ; a new graduate residence and childcare facility; and a new home for MIT admissions. Unrestricted gifts are also contributing to the acceleration of MIT’s commitment to action on climate change.

When Covid-19 struck in early 2020, flexible funding empowered the Institute to rapidly respond: safely operating the campus; investing in the capacity to perform Covid-19 tests; accelerating the implementation of tools and practices for online teaching and remote work; and providing access to equipment and technology to support largely uninterrupted teaching, research, and innovation. The availability of flexible unrestricted reserves, as well as recurring unrestricted resources—which in 2021 comprised 40% of MIT’s general operating budget—were central to MIT’s efforts to protect its community in the early days of the pandemic and continue to play a vital role.

For the donor community, a commitment of unrestricted funds is a show of faith in the Institute’s ability to direct the resources where they are most needed. “There are so many great areas to support at MIT, we couldn’t pick just one,” says Brad Billetdeaux ’72, who with his wife, Susan, made two unrestricted planned gifts in 2017 and continues to provide support. “We trust that MIT knows best what areas need funding.” Similarly, Lawrence Linden SM ’70, PhD ’76 calls his 2018 unrestricted gift a reflection of “my deep affection for MIT as an institution and confidence in its future.”

MIT’s unrestricted donors, says President Reif, “give us the great gift of their confidence—confidence in the mission, power, and people of MIT to do good for the nation and the world.” 

This article was originally published in July 2021.

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