Weeks shy of its two-year anniversary, The Campaign for MIT continues on its impressive trajectory: As of late summer the gift-and-pledge total stood at $1.27 billion against a goal of $1.5 billion.

“It’s an amazing achievement,” says Barbara Stowe, vice president for resource development. “Our good friends in the corporate and foundation communities deserve much of the credit, but gifts from our alumni and other individual donors have been especially critical.”

Fully $809 million of the total, or 65 percent, is from individuals. And their gifts are changing the character of the MIT experience in ways large and small.

Some 50 freshmen in the Class of 2004 were able to team up to plan a manned mission to Mars. The physics department is offering small cash awards for the best posters in the department’s annual poster session, during which graduate students present their research findings. A study space for students doing team projects is planned for the science library, with team study rooms to be built in that and other libraries later. MIT has created its first endowed housemastership, underscoring the importance of the faculty and staff who fill this vital role. Students are writing plays and performing in them under the direction of Alan Brody, associate provost for the arts.

Gifts from individuals are making these and other innovations possible. And L. Robert Johnson ’63, MIT Alumni Association president, says individuals at all levels of giving potential have more choices than ever about how to support MIT.

Johnson notes that while many of his own gifts are for specific projects, some have also taken the form of funds useable at MIT’s discretion. Such unrestricted contributions enable the Institute to do innovative things it otherwise couldn’t.

The alumnus says giving as part of a group can also be a good strategy. He notes that “several classes have a scholarship fund which they support.” And donors to these and other endowed funds can see the impact of their gifts grow over time, thanks to MIT’s policy of investing for future growth as well as current outlays.

Finally, donors today have new ways to seek out MIT causes to support. The Giving to MIT Website, for example, lists 25 giving options that represent campaign priorities.

“Those who are inclined to give to MIT should have a lot of choices,” says Johnson, “and with the Web, the Institute is increasingly able to act on that goal.”