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McGill University principal Heather Munroe-Blum.CHRISTINNE MUSCHI FOR MCGILL UNIVERSITY

McGill University has joined the billion-dollar fundraising club, announcing a formal end to its latest campaign after surpassing the school's original goal by a third.

The nine-year campaign, originally intended to raise $750-million by 2012, topped $1-billion this year. The University of Toronto and University of British Columbia, which have larger student populations, have also surpassed the billion-dollar threshold in recent years on their way to even higher goals.

More than 95,000 donors helped McGill leapfrog its target, some 44,000 of them from outside Quebec, while one in 10 who gave money boasted no obvious ties to the school.

The funds are particularly crucial to McGill as the province's schools face deep funding cuts mandated mid-year by the provincial government. Premier Pauline Marois also reversed planned tuition fee increases after she came to power last fall, leaving universities scrambling to salvage their budget plans.

"Our donors are providing a powerful example of the absolutely essential role private giving plays —not as a substitute for adequate public funding, but in ensuring that, to the best of our abilities, we can continue to serve our students and our community at the highest level," said Kip Cobbett, chair of McGill's Board of Governors, in a statement on Tuesday.

More than 60 per cent of the money raised will go to student aid and scholarships, or be channelled into enhancing programs and learning spaces on campus, according to the university. The remainder goes to research and other opportunities for faculty, and campaign funds have already helped create 46 new faculty research chairs.

Roughly 80,000 of the gifts were for $1,000 or less, while donors' expectations are shifting.

"The economic downturn changed people's way of giving," said Marc Weinstein, McGill's vice-principal of development and alumni relations, who noted many donors' gifts are now intended to be spent faster.

"They want to see impact sooner and hence are moving away from providing endowment support to the campaign," he said.

In the midst of fierce debates about how Quebec should fund its universities, the province's fundraising culture is also "taking off," according to McGill principal Heather Munroe-Blum, who ends her term at McGill's helm in the coming weeks.

A 2010 report from Statistics Canada showed that the average donation made to all charitable causes was $208 in Quebec, the lowest of any province. The Canadian average was $446.

"We have a ways to go, but we're proud to say that the majority of donors who've contributed to the campaign are from Quebec, so clearly they feel a strong connection and kinship to McGill," Mr. Weinstein said. "And we're hoping ... this will create some momentum."