Alumni Lagging, But Support Rises For Higher Ed

February 12, 2014       The NonProfit Times      

Charitable contributions to colleges and universities in the United States increased 9 percent in 2013, according to the Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) survey, conducted by the Council for Aid to Education (CAE).

Stanford University at $931.57 million took the top spot and bested its nearest rival Harvard University by $139 million.

At $33.8 billion, the total is the highest recorded in the history of the survey. Giving fell for 2009 from $31.6 billion, which was then the historical high point, to $27.85 billion. Giving levels gradually recovered from that loss until reaching this year’s high.

Among the institutions that responded to the survey, 59.5 percent raised more in 2013 than in 2012. Contributions for current operations increased 6.9 percent. Such contributions can be used to meet current‐year expenditures. Gifts for capital purposes (endowments, property, buildings, equipment, and loan funds) increased 12.4 percent, survey results showed.

Precollege survey respondents reported that contributions, which had declined in 2012, increased 22.2 percent in 2013. For example, Hackley School in Tarrytown, N.Y., received a bequest of three paintings that were auctioned and valued on the survey at $49.27 million. Hackley’s giving increased from $4.73 million in 2012 to $55.35 million in 2013. Without that institution’s data, the increase in giving to precollege respondents was 16.1 percent.

Precollege respondents raised 30.6 percent more for capital purposes and 7.5 percent more for current operations in 2013 than in 2012. If Hackley School’s data are not included, the capital‐purpose increase is still strong, at 21 percent. CAE does not estimate total support for precollege institutions, given the small number and the composition of responding institutions.

The top 10 fundraising institutions accounted for 1 percent of the responding institutions and raised 17.3 percent of the contributions. The top 10 for 2013 are:

1. Stanford University ($931.57 million)

2. Harvard University ($792.26 million)

3. University of Southern California ($674.51 million)

4. Columbia University ($646.66 million)

5. Johns Hopkins University ($518.57 million)

6. University of Pennsylvania ($506.61 million)

7. Cornell University ($474.96 million)

8. New York University ($449.34 million)

9. Yale University ($444.17 million)

10. Duke University($423.66million)

Between the first and last trading days of the academic fiscal year, the major stock indexes increased by double‐digit percentages, the survey showed. Stock values affect the level and volume of gifts for capital purposes, which are often made in the form of securities. The value of the market also affects cash gifts by its effect on personal and institutional wealth.

University endowment levels are also affected by the performance of the stock market, in part because gifts to endowment are influenced by the market, but also because the value of stocks affects the return on investment of institutions’ endowment assets, according to Ann E. Kaplan, the survey’s director.

In the aggregate, the value of endowments of 942 institutions that supplied endowment figures by January 15, 2014, increased 9.8 percent. As well, 96.6 percent of those respondents reported their endowment values increased in 2013. In 2012, only 44.3 percent of respondents reported an increase in their endowments, and endowment values in the aggregate showed no growth.

Giving from alumni increased more than any other source of support, by 16.9 percent. Among survey respondents that provided details on components of alumni giving, gifts from alumni for capital purposes and for current operations both increased in 2013. The average gift per contributing alumnus increased 18.1 percent.

Alumni participation, however, declined to 8.7 percent. In 2012, alumni participation was 9.2 percent. Participation is calculated by dividing the number of alumni donors by the number of alumni for whom the institution has a means of contact (called the number of record).

Among 951 institutions that reported in 2012 and 2013, the number of donors declined 1.7 percent, while the number of record increased 3.7 percent. Even in years when the number of donors increases, the number of record tends to increase more. In 2013, higher levels of giving among contributing alumni offset the decline in the number of donors, leading to the increase in alumni giving overall.

Alumni giving rose $1.3 billion and was the primary source of the $2.8 billion increase in total support. Foundation giving also played a major role. Contributions from foundations rose $850 million. Giving from other organizations and nonalumni individuals also increased, by $400 million and $375 million, respectively. Religious organizations contributed $25 million more in 2013 than in 2012. Corporations gave $150 million less.

Three 9‐figure gifts were reported on the 2013 survey. The survey only counts contributions when they are received, according to Kaplan. Institutions may announce large pledges during the fiscal year, but the amounts are not included on the VSE survey until they are paid. If pledges are paid over time, as is often the case with large gifts, the funds are reported on the VSE survey as they are received by the institution. These three gifts were paid in full in 2013.

Columbia University received $227,510,000 from the Dawn M. Greene and the Jerome L. Greene Foundation to honor the late Jerome L. Greene, a Columbia alumnus. The gift, announced in 2006, was paid in 2013. The gift is for construction of the Jerome L. Greene Science Center in New York City.

Stanford University received $151,000,000 from alumnus John Arrillaga. The funds will be used for various purposes. Mr. Arrillaga is a billionaire real estate developer who has a long history of contributing to Stanford. This is his second 9‐figure gift to Stanford. In 2006, he contributed $100,000,000 to the university.

The University of Southern California also reported a 9‐figure gift. It received $141,955,000 from an anonymous individual. Most of the gift — $116,955,000 — was restricted to academic divisions. The remaining $25, million was earmarked for property, buildings, and equipment.

“The 2014 fiscal year is not over, but the bellwethers for giving to education are positive at the time of this release,” said Kaplan. “Bear in mind that the significant increase seen in 2013 represents a challenging benchmark. The 2013 increase came on the heels of a lackluster year. The level of giving in 2013 was indeed impressive and will be challenging to exceed.”