Deeper Pockets

Generous alumni helped colleges rake in nearly $34 billion in donations in 2013, a 9 percent increase over 2012.

February 12, 2014

Donors gave about $34 billion to North American colleges in 2013, according to an annual survey by the Council for Aid to Education.

That's more than $3 billion more than the year before, and the most ever raised in a single year -- topping the $31.6 billion from pre-recession 2008, not adjusted for inflation.

The 9 percent increase in overall donations coincided with an upswing in financial markets that encouraged the giving and increased the value of gifts that came in the form of stocks.

The same bull markets also fueled higher investment returns for endowment funds, according to another recent survey.

The Council for Aid to Education’s Voluntary Support of Education survey, which is being released today, found colleges in the United States and Canada raised $33.8 billion in the last fiscal year. About 17 percent of that money went to just 10 colleges, though – all of them wealthy American institutions. (See table at bottom.) Still, 59 percent of the more than 900 institutions that responded to the survey reported more philanthropic support in 2013 than in 2012.

The largest increase in giving came from alumni, who gave $9 billion total, a 17 percent increase from 2012. Of those donations, a significant chunk were earmarked for capital projects.

“While giving was up across the board, it was up more for capital purposes, and these tend to be major gifts,” said Ann Kaplan, the survey’s director.



The number of alumni donors actually declined slightly but the increased generosity of those who did donate made up for that.

Alumni participation fell to 8.7 percent from 9.2 percent in 2012 -- that participation rate is the number of alumni donors divided by the number of alumni an institution has a means of contacting. While some people care about the number, its fall may not always be bad news, Kaplan said. Even in years when the number of donors increases, the number of records can increase -- because universities have more alumni or are doing a better job of getting their contact info.

There were also increases in donations by non-alumni and foundations, though there was a 2.7 percent decline in corporate donations.

Another recent survey of giving, by consulting firm Marts & Lundy, labeled 2013 the year of the “big gift revival.”

“The controversies surrounding the election, the large gifts made to political action committees, and the anxiety produced by negative political rhetoric aimed at the wealthy kept big gifts artificially down in 2012 despite the bull market,” the firm’s report said.

“All of this changed in 2013, and support by the very rich for all types of nonprofit organizations, but especially for higher education, has come roaring back.”

Institutions That Raised the Most, 2013

  Amount Raised
Stanford U. $931,570,000
Harvard U. $792,260,000
U.of Southern California $674,510,000
Columbia U. $646,660,000
Johns Hopkins U. $518,570,000
U. of Pennsylvania $506,610,000
Cornell U. $474,960,000
New York U. $449,340,000
Yale U. $444,170,000
Duke U. $423,660,000




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