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Donations to Colleges and Universities Rise Just 2.3 Percent in FY12

March 4, 2013

Higher education institutions raised $31 billion in financial gifts from alumni, foundations, corporations, and other groups in fiscal year 2012, according to the 2012 Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) survey, conducted by the Council for Aid to Education. The amount raised in FY12 represents a 2.3 percent rise over the amount received in FY11. However, when adjusted for inflation, total fundraising grew only 0.2 percent.

While the total amount of financial gifts received grew just over 2 percent, the amount of donations received in FY12 remains 2 percent below the record amount raised in FY08. This finding suggests that higher education fundraising still has not fully recovered from the downturn suffered during the 2008-09 recession.

Additionally, there is a great deal of variation in the recent success of campuses' fundraising efforts. Approximately 53 percent of institutions reported an increasing in fundraising totals from 2011 to 2012, while 47 percent saw a decline or raised the same amount. The median percentage change in funding in nominal (not inflation-adjusted) dollars was 1.9 percent.

Total donations rose despite the fact that the percentage of alumni participating in their alma mater's annual giving campaigns fell 0.3 percentage points, and the average alumni gift declined 1.4 percent. The total amount of alumni giving, which accounts for about one quarter of all contributions to higher education institutions, fell from $7.8 billion to $7.7 billion. This loss was more than accounted for by increases in the amounts raised from foundations, which increased 5.5 percent, and corporations, which grew 4.6 percent. Foundations accounted for nearly 30 percent of total financial contributions received, while corporations made up 17 percent.

The recent trends in alumni donations to educational institutions track closely with recent changes in the value of U.S. stocks. During the first six months of FY12 (July 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011) the New York Stock Exchange dropped 11.2 percent. This sharp drop, along with relatively high rates of unemployment among recent college graduates, may have limited the ability or willingness of individuals to participate in campus fundraising efforts. More recently, the stock market has rallied, suggesting that fundraising among alumni may improve in fiscal 2013.

Copies of the 2012 VSE report will be available for purchase in early spring 2013. A complimentary press release is posted on the CAE website.


Ken Redd
Director, Research and Policy Analysis