Large Gifts to Colleges, Universities Up Slightly in 2018, Study Finds

Large Gifts to Colleges, Universities Up Slightly in 2018, Study Finds

Gifts of at least $10 million to institutions of higher education in 2018 rose just 1 percent on a year-over-year basis and 3 percent in terms of total value, with the increase in the latter due largely to a gift of $1.8 billion from Michael R. Bloomberg to Johns Hopkins University, a report from Marts & Lundy finds.

Based on data from the Chronicle of Philanthropy's online database of large gifts and gift announcements made via Twitter, the report, $10M+ Gifts to Higher Education (8 pages, PDF), found that U.S. colleges and universities received two hundred and eight gifts of at least $10 million totaling $7.96 billion in 2018. The rate of increase in both the number and total value of such gifts was down significantly from 2017, however, when the number of such gifts rose 6 percent and their total value increased 25 percent. Among gifts of $10 million-plus, contributions of at least $100 million totaled $4.04 billion in 2018, up from $3.48 billion in 2017, while gifts of between $50 million and $99 million totaled $888 million, down from $1.25 billion in 2017; gifts of between $25 million and $49 million totaled $1.11 billion, down from $1.58 billion in 2017; and gifts of between $10 million and $24 million totaled $1.93 billion, up from $1.5 billion in 2017. 

The report also found that colleges and universities in California received more $10 million-plus gifts, twenty-seven, than institutions in any other state, followed by Texas and Pennsylvania, with thirteen each, while Bloomberg's gift to Johns Hopkins put Maryland at the top in terms of total value, with $2.03 billion, followed by California ($1.15 billion) and Massachusetts ($962 million). Gifts of at least $10 million were concentrated among institutions that belong to the sixty-member American Association of Universities, which accounted for $4.5 billion of the 2018 total of $7.96 billion, with an average gift size of $51 million, while non-member institutions, which number nearly twenty-five hundred, accounted for $3.45 million, with an average gift size of $29 million. In terms of issue area, higher education accounted for 74 percent (by value) of all gifts of at least $10 million in 2018, as it did in 2017, followed by health (13 percent) and the arts, culture, and the environment (6 percent).

"It's critical that we do not allow political, economic, and social instability to distract us from the basic tenet of philanthropy," said Marts & Lundy president and CEO Philippe G. Hills. "Historically, donors give to causes they feel passionately about, and now is the time for organizations to become even more deeply engaged with their contributors. Philanthropy endures, no matter what, thanks to extraordinary benefactors at a variety of levels who want to use their dollars to have an impact."

"Marts & Lundy Report Shows $10M+ Giving to Higher Education Holds Steady in 2018." Marts & Lundy Press Release 03/06/2019.