Charitable contributions to American colleges and universities reached $40.3 billion during 2015, a 7.6 percent increase compared to $37.45 billion for 2014. The total is the highest in the history of Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) survey conducted by the Council for Aid to Education (CAE), which began in 1957.
The top 20 fundraising institutions raised 28.7 percent of all gifts, $11.56 billion, according to CAE. Stanford University led the way with $1.63 billion raised, followed by Harvard University at $1.05 billion. The top 20 were:
Contributions earmarked for current operations carried the overall increase, with $24.65 billion targeted for that purpose, an increase of $2.85 billion compared to 2014. Donations for capital purposes remained flat from 2014 to 2015 at $15.65 billion.
Donation totals increased across most sources, including foundations, the largest contributor, which drove $11.6 billion in donations in 2015, up from $11.2 billion in 2014. Individual support from alumni and non-alumni similarly increased from $9.85 billion and $6.5 billion, respectively, in 2014 to $10.85 billion and $8 billion in 2015. Corporate support stayed flat at $5.75 billion.
The 10.2 percent increase in alumni contributions came despite a decrease in alumni participation driven by a 3.4 percent increase in the number of alumni on record. “Participation will only increase if the number of donors rises more than the number of located alumni,” explained Ann E. Kaplan, VSE survey director. “This is unlikely in a technological age in which individuals may have multiple means of contact that make them easy to locate. Finding an address is much simpler than cultivating a relationship that leads to a contribution.”
National economic expansion and the performance of the stock market will likely play a strong factor in whether contributions increase again in 2016, the release stated. More than one-third of the contributions made to a given institution, on average, come from twelve large gifts. Such gifts are often in the form of appreciated securities, their value tied to the stock market.
Extremely large gifts increased in 2015. Eight gifts of $100 million or more made up $1.44 billion of the total, according to the release. The combined value of the donations was greater than the combined funds raised by the list’s bottom 490 institutions. Five gifts of $100 million or greater were recorded in 2014, totaling $698.55 million.
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