Charitable gifts to U.S. colleges and universities rose 10.8 percent, to a record $37.45 billion, in fiscal year 2014, the biggest increase since 2000, the Voluntary Support of Education survey finds.
Conducted by the Council for Aid to Education, the annual VSE survey had Harvard University, which raised $1.16 billion in the first year of the public phase of a $6.5 billion capital campaign — the most ever reported — at the top of the list, followed by Stanford University ($928.46 million) and the University of Southern California ($731.93 million). CAE also reported that the fundraising revenue of the top twenty institutions on the list accounted for 28.6 percent of all gifts to institutions of higher education in the U.S. in 2014; that five institutions reported receiving single gifts of at least $100 million, up from three in 2013; and that two of the nine-figure gifts comprised works of art — a gift to the University of Texas at Austin valued at $216.62 million, and one to Colby College, in Waterville, Maine, valued at $102.6 million.
According to the report, robust stock market returns not only boosted gifts for capital purposes, which were up 15.1 percent on a year-over-year basis, but also lifted university endowments, with the value of the endowments of 959 institutions that provided data up some 15 percent on a year-over-year basis. The report also found that foundations accounted for the largest share of gifts (29.9 percent) in 2014, followed by alumni (26.3 percent), non-alumni individuals (17.4 percent), and corporations (15.4 percent). In addition, gifts from corporations and foundations increased 12.7 percent and 12 percent on a year-over-basis, while gifts from alumni increased 9.4 percent.
Noting that alumni participation rates continued to decline, from 8.7 percent in 2013 to 8.3 percent in 2014, survey director Ann E. Kaplan said the number does not necessarily reflect alumni loyalty to an institution. "Some institutions with high participation rates have poor alumni records," said Kaplan. "An institution that has fewer than seven alumni of record for each enrolled student should focus on improving its alumni database, even if that practice temporarily reduces its statistical participation rate. Institutions should not sacrifice good practices for the sake of appearance."