Colleges and universities raised $24.4 billion in 2004, a 3.4 percent increase, according to a report  released Wednesday by the Council for Aid to Education.
Harvard raised the most money -- over $540 million. Hazard Community and Technical College was the top fund raiser among community colleges, with $8.8 million, while Wellesley College topped the list of liberal arts institutions, with $54.7 million.
Nearly half of the funds raised in 2004 came directly from individuals, a 9.7 percent increase over the year before. Alumni giving typically dominates individual donations, but in 2004 giving by non-alumni donors increased by 21.5 percent while alumni giving increased by only 2 percent.
While total alumni giving increased, the percentage of alumni making gifts declined to 12.8 percent, according to the survey. The rate has declined each year since 2001, when the percentage stood at 13.8 percent.
Ann E. Kaplan, director of the survey, cautioned against reading too much into that shift. She noted that colleges are using better software and other methods to maintain address records of alumni. Since the number of alumni of record is defined as the number of living alumni for which the institution has a good address, such improvements would render the number of alumni of record higher, without necessarily increasing the number of donors.
In addition, some colleges focus their efforts in fund raising on the wealthiest donors, while others make a major effort to keep a broad base.