Higher Ed Gifts Record Impacted By Inflation, 1 Big Gift

Giving to higher education set another new record in 2019 for the seventh consecutive year, approaching $50 billion, after a 10th consecutive year of growth.

Giving was up 6.1 percent, or 3.6 percent when adjusted for inflation, compared to 2018, according to the latest Voluntary Support of Education Survey (VSE), released today by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

Giving from alumni and foundations accounted for more than half of the $49.6 billion in contributions to higher education institutions:

  • Foundations, 34.3 percent, $17 billion, up 21.3 percent:
  • Alumni, 22.6 percent, $11.2 billion, down 7.9 percent;
  • Non-alumni individuals, 16.7 percent, $8.3 billion, down 3.1 percent;
  • Corporations, 13.7 percent, $6.8 billion, up 1 percent; and
  • Other organizations, 12.7 percent, $6.3 billion, up 19.6 percent.

Johns Hopkins University reported a $1.8-billion contribution from former New York City mayor and presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, $1.2 billion of which was from his foundation.

Without the Bloomberg gift, foundation giving would have increased 12.3 percent, and total support would have increased to $48.33 billion — still eclipsing the previous year’s total of $46.7 billion and up 3.4 percent but barely keeping up with inflation.

Alumni dropped from 26 percent in 2018 and support from foundations was up from 30 percent in 2018. Gifts from alumni and non-alumni individuals declined last year, down 7.9 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively. Giving from foundations, other organizations, and corporations increased, by 21.3 percent, 19.6 percent, and 1 percent.

A volatile stock market at the end of calendar year 2018 may have affected giving by individuals. Those who make gifts of stock at the end of the calendar year would be expected to cut back on contributions given the prevailing stock market levels, according to the survey. Among 426 institutions reporting on gifts of stock, the number of such gifts declined 15.2 percent, and the value of those gifts dropped 7.2 percent between 2018 and 2019.

The survey covers the fiscal year from July 2018 to June 2019. There were 914 institutions that provided data for the survey. Of those, 872 replied in 2018 as well, comprising the “core group” of the results.

“Other organizations” includes donor-advised funds (DAF). In 2018, contributions from DAFs as reported by 404 institutions, increased almost 66 percent. In 2019, 389 institutions responded to the questions about DAFs and reported a 17.4-percent decline in the value of such gifts. The number of those contributions increased almost 34 percent.

Gifts for capital purposes increased more than twice as much as those for current operations, increasing for the third consecutive year. Giving to capital purposes was up 9.2 percent, or 6.5 percent adjusted for inflation, to $21.1 billion. Giving for current operations was up 4 percent, some 1.5 percent inflation-adjusted, to $28.5 billion. Capital purpose giving rose more than current operations giving in 24 of the past 40 years, or about 60 percent of the time.

Seven institutions reported eight single donors who gave $100 million or more. Gifts from these donors totaled $2.21 billion, about 4.5 percent of the amount raised by all institutions. In 2018, seven institutions reported seven $100-million-plus donors.

The Bloomberg gift to Johns Hopkins was for the university’s endowment in support of undergraduate financial aid. It was four times the amount of the next largest foundation grant reported on the survey. More than 47 percent of foundations gifts reported in 2019 are from family foundations and represent the charitable intentions of alumni and other individuals.

This is the second year that the VSE has been under the auspices of CASE, which acquired the survey as part of the establishment of AMAtlas, a global resource for education advancement-related metrics.