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Higher Ed Fundraising Hits Another Record

Charitable giving to American colleges and universities reached the $41 billion mark in 2016, eclipsing 2015’s record of $40.3 billion. The sum represents a 0.4 percent increase adjusted for inflation. Foundation and corporate giving were primary drivers of the increase.

Foundational giving increased by 6 percent adjusted for inflation to $12.45 billion while corporate giving increased by 13.3 percent adjusted for inflation to $6.60 billion.

The data comes from the Council for Aid to Education’s (CAE) Voluntary Support of Education survey, which has been conducted since 1957. This year’s survey was also marked with reductions in individual giving and gifts to top schools. Alumni gave $9.93 billion in 2016, down from $10.85 billion in 2015. Non-alumni, too, gave less – $7.52 billion, down from $8.00 billion in 2015.
The top 20 earners, representing less than 1 percent of all fundraising institutions, pulled in 27.1 percent of donations for a total of $11.12 billion. The top 20 schools of 2015 accounted for 28.7 percent of all giving and $11.56 billion. The top 20 fundraising institutions of 2016 are:

1. Harvard University – $1.19 billion;
2. Stanford University – $951.15 million;
3. University of Southern California – $666.64 million;
4. Johns Hopkins University – $657.29 million;
5. University of California – San Francisco – $595.95 million;
6. Cornell University – $588.26 million;
7. Columbia University – $584.81 million;
8. University of Pennsylvania – $542.85 million;
9. University of Washington – $541.44 million;
10. Yale University – $519.15 million;
11. Duke University – $506.44 million;
12. University of California – Los Angeles – $490.80 million;
13. New York University – $461.15 million;
14. University of Chicago – $443.30 million;
15. University of Michigan – $433.78 million;
16. Massachusetts Institute of Technology – $419.75 million;
17. Northwestern University – $401.68 million;
18. The Ohio State University – $386.11 million;
19. University of Notre Dame – $371.76 million; and,
20. Indiana University – $360.94 million.

The Ohio State University and Indiana University are new to the list, while Princeton University and the University of California-Berkeley are off after being in the top 20 in 2015.

The survey attributes the weak stock market during the 2016 fiscal year as reason for reduced personal giving. Stock market performance and personal philanthropy, particularly among larger gifts, tend to go hand in hand, the survey report stated. For instance, eight gifts of $100 million or more were reported in 2015 — seven from individuals and one from a foundation. Just two such gifts were made in 2016, one personal and one from a foundation.

Potential changes to tax policy under the new administration could also affect giving. Legislation that reduces the top marginal tax rate or limits the charitable deduction usually decreases charitable giving, but generally not in the year the law is passed – which is sometimes met with increased giving, according to the report. Barring a dramatic change in tax law or the stock market, an increase in contributions during the 2017 fiscal year is projected.

Other findings from the survey include:

* Philanthropic support for current operations represented 61.3 percent of total support in 2016, nearly the same as in 2015. Contributions for capital purposes, including endowments, has exceeded support for current operations just three times in the last four decades – from 1998 through 2000;

* Charitable support for financial aid continues to hover around the 16 percent mark, as it has for the past decade. Contributions for financial aid made up 15.9 percent of total giving in 2006 as compared to 16.8 percent in 2016; and,

* Despite its importance, philanthropic support has represented just 10 percent of responding universities’ expenditures in recent years. In 2000, by contrast, charitable support represented 15.7 percent of university expenditures.

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