A new forecasting tool projects that giving to schools and colleges will increase by 5.3 percent over the next year, representing overall growth, but, given weaker economic conditions, below the 7 percent average annual growth rate over the last 20 years.
Meanwhile, for the fiscal year that ended June 30 -- no hard data regarding national fund-raising figures are available yet -- the tool estimates there was a 7.2 percent increase in philanthropic support, largely consistent with the 20-year average.
The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Fundraising Index, launched Monday, is based on a survey of senior development officials in public and private higher education and private K-12 schools. "What we thought would be helpful is if we have something equivalent to the consumer confidence indices," said John Lippincott, CASE's president. "We want to be clear that this is not meant to come up with an exact dollar figure. It is really a way of getting an early sense of what the people who are on the front lines of fund raising are seeing in terms of the results for the year they just completed and what they're anticipating in the year ahead."
The inaugural electronic survey, sent to 2,320 CASE member institutions between July 1 and July 9, garnered 239 completed surveys, for a 10.3 percent response rate. CASE expects to offer 12-month projections twice yearly, Lippincott said, and over time, will calibrate its predictions against actual numbers on fund-raising trends compiled by the GivingUSA  Foundation and the Council for Aid to Education's Voluntary Support of Education Survey . The latter's survey's latest results, tracking trends in fiscal year 2007, were released in February .
"We wanted to do something," Lippincott said, "that gave people a sense of the educational fund raising climate, that could be a very useful, valuable tool that complements then the solid numbers that are provided by the Voluntary Support of Education Survey or Giving USA."
"It has a different purpose," Ann E. Kaplan, director of the Voluntary Support of Education Survey, said of CASE's new index. "What we're doing is compiling the data once they're in; what they're trying to do is anticipate what that will be."
"Professionals in any particular field tend to have a pretty good idea of what the atmosphere is that they're operating in, and what the behavior in institutions around them is. It'll be interesting to see how it gets used."