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Financial Contributions to Colleges and Universities Flat from 2009 to 2010

February 9, 2011

American colleges and universities collectively raised $28 billion in fiscal year 2010, a 0.5 percent gain from FY09, according to the annual Voluntary Support of Education Survey released by the Council for Aid to Education (CAE). However, when adjusted for inflation, contributions to colleges and universities fell by 0.6 percent. The FY10 results represent a stark contrast from 2009, when the amount of gifts received fell 11.9 percent, the largest decline in the 50-year history of the CAE study.

The survey includes financial contributions data from approximately 1,000 higher education institutions in the United States. There were noticeable shifts in the trends recorded by these respondents. Baccalaureate colleges reported the largest increase in giving in 2010 (2.9 percent) after experiencing an 18.3 percent drop in donations the previous year. In contrast, total donations to the 20 largest universities that raised the most in FY10 fell 1.5 percent. Overall, roughly 51 percent of all responding institutions reported increases in their donations received. The 20 largest institutions received $7.15 billion of the $28 billion raised by all colleges and universities.

Alumni Giving Continues to Decline

While overall gifts received remained steady in FY10, total contributions to higher education are still well below the levels recorded before the economic downturn. The $28 billion raised from financial contributions in FY10 is about the same as institutions received in FY06. Gifts from alumni have particularly lagged in recent years. The total amount of alumni contributions fell 0.4 percent in FY10, and the average alumni gift declined 0.4 percent as well. From 2006 to 2010, financial support from alumni dropped 15 percent, and the percentage of alumni participating in annual giving campaigns dropped from 11.9 percent to 9.8 percent. The amount received from foundations, on the other hand, rose 18.3 percent during the same period. As a result of these trends, alumni gifts fell from 30 percent of the total amount received in 2006 to 25 percent in 2010. More information on these trends can be obtained from the CAE Web site.

Upcoming NACUBO Webcast on How to Engage Wealthy Donors

Given continuing declines in alumni gifts, it is now more important than ever to understand what motivates individuals, particularly those who have attained high net worth, to donate to nonprofit organizations generally, and colleges and universities specifically. To help institutions understand these trends and behaviors, NACUBO will host a “Charitable Behaviors and Motivations of Wealthy Donors” webcast, on Tuesday, March 8, at 1:30 p.m. The webcast will focus on trends in high net worth philanthropy, and the strategies institutions can use to retain high net worth donors and keep them engaged. You will learn how wealthy individuals direct their largest gifts, what motivates them to give and to continue to provide support, where and how often they volunteer, and who they turn to for advice about philanthropy. Experts from Bank of America Merrill Lynch and the Center of Philanthropy at Indiana University will discuss findings from their recent report, “2010 Bank of America Merrill Lynch Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy.”

Go to the program page to register for this event.


Ken Redd
Director, Research and Policy Analysis