Director of Communications
Feb. 20, 2008
The 6.3 percent increase in giving to U.S. higher education last year continues an upward trend in philanthropy to education. The record $29.75 billion in private support affirms that donors continue to recognize and value the contributions of educational institutions as they prepare future leaders, support communities, and benefit the greater social good.
The results of the 2007 Voluntary Support of Education Survey, conducted by the Council for Aid to Education and sponsored by CASE, also demonstrate that giving from individuals remains healthy even as giving from foundations is growing. In addition, many individual donors are using alternative giving vehicles such as donor-advised funds and family foundations to make gifts to educational institutions.
While the top-20 institutions account for a relatively large portion of the increase, an analysis of historical trends tells us that all institutions tend to do well when the largest are successful. This is not a case of the rich getting richer at the expense of the poor, but of a rising tide of philanthropy that is benefitting nearly all of our colleges and universities.
The good news in alumni giving is that the actual number of alumni donors grew by 1.9 percent even as the numbers of young alumni grow. This speaks to potential growth in alumni giving as younger donors gain the capacity to make larger donations in the future. A hallmark of alumni giving is creating the "habit" of philanthropy, regardless of the size of the gift.
A factor in the decline in total alumni contributions may be the increased use of donor-advised funds and family foundations as a means of making donations. The decline in alumni participation rates is due to better databases, and a deeper look may tell us whether a few large institutions are driving the data.
Overall, the 2007 VSE survey tells us that donor confidence in and support for higher education remains strong as reflected by steady growth in philanthropy to the sector. This growth also reflects the emphasis our institutions are placing on connecting their missions to the interests of prospective donors who want to support students, quality teaching, and meaningful research.
Our caution is always that private giving in the United States still accounts for less than 10 percent of a college or university's operating budget, and more than 90 percent of private gifts are designated for purposes specified by the donor. Private giving does not replace the need for other forms of support from tuition, government funding, and grants, for example.
Participating in the VSE survey is voluntary and requires participating members to report their numbers following the CASE Management and Reporting Standards. We are pleased that participation in the VSE continued to grow in 2007.
For more information about the VSE survey, which is conducted annually with sponsorship support from CASE, go to the Council for Aid to Education's Web site at www.cae.org.