Giving to Colleges, Universities Up 7.6 Percent in 2015, Survey Finds

Charitable giving to U.S. colleges and universities rose 7.6 percent, to a record $40.3 billion, in fiscal year 2015, the Voluntary Support of Education survey from the Council for Aid to Education finds.

Stanford University topped the list of institutions that raised the most with $1.63 billion, followed by Harvard University ($1.05 billion) and the University of Southern California ($653.03 million). The annual survey also found that fundraising revenue at the top twenty institutions on the list accounted for $11.56 billion, or 28.7 percent of the total, and that four institutions received eight gifts of $100 million or more totaling $1.44 billion — up from five gifts totaling $698.55 million in fiscal 2014 — including a nine-figure gift of art to Stanford and a gift of rare books to Princeton University. Contributions in support of current operations increased 13.1 percent, while those for capital purposes were flat, in part due to a tough year-over-year comparison created by a 15.1 percent jump in such giving in 2014 and weaker stock market returns. The survey also found that total endowment values increased just 3 percent in 2015, after rising 15 percent in 2014.

According to the report, foundation giving, which accounts for the largest share of giving (28.8 percent), was up 3.6 percent on a year-over-year basis, while gifts from alumni (26.9 percent) and non-alumni individuals (19.9 percent) increased 10.2 percent and 23.1 percent, respectively, and corporate giving (14.3 percent) remained flat. Alumni participation rates continued to fall, however, due to a 3.4 percent increase in the number of alumni of record (those for whom the institution has a means of contact), while the number of alumni donors rose incrementally (0.7 percent).

"Participation will only increase if the number of donors rises more than the number of located alumni," said survey director Ann E. Kaplan. "This is unlikely in a technological age in which individuals may have multiple means of contact that make them easy to locate. Finding an address is much simpler than cultivating a relationship that leads to a contribution."

"Colleges and Universities Raise Record $40.30 Billion in 2015." Council for Aid to Education Press Release 01/27/2016.