About CASE

Pam Russell
Director of Communications


For Immediate Release
Jan. 25, 2009

Statement on the Results of the 2008 Voluntary Support of Education Survey

Statement by CASE President John Lippincott

Donors expressed their continued confidence in American colleges and universities during the 2007-2008 academic year by increasing their contributions 6.2 percent over the previous year, according to the Council for Aid to Education's Voluntary Support of Education Survey.

This finding is consistent with preliminary estimates made by college and university fundraisers last July through the CASE Fundraising Index. At that time, the CFI estimated total fundraising for the academic year ended June 30, 2008, would increase by 7.2 percent.

It is noteworthy and gratifying that the record $31.6 billion in philanthropic support for American higher education resulted from increases in giving from all sources - individuals, foundations, corporations and other organizations. Giving to public colleges and universities showed particularly strong gains, continuing a decades-long trend that has closed the gap with private institutions.

Another continuing trend is the decline in the alumni participation rate, the percentage of alumni who give among all those for whom the institution has a record. Two factors are contributing to the decline in the alumni participation rate. First, institutions are increasing the number of alumni records faster than they are increasing the number of alumni donors. Second, more alumni appear to be using family foundations and donor-advised funds to make their contributions, which are then recorded as gifts from foundations or other organizations.

Despite the decline in the participation rate, the number of alumni who gave and the amount they gave both increased during 2007-2008. The 5.2 percent increase in alumni gifts - to a record $8.7 million - affirms that institutions are successfully maintaining connections with and securing support from one of their most valued and valuable constituencies.

The VSE survey results indicate that much of the growth in giving is attributable to a relatively small number of institutions. It is not surprising that colleges and universities receiving the most support from donors are among those with the most well-developed and mature fundraising programs. Institutions that make a strategic investment in advancement tend to have the most success, and donors, in turn, like to give where success has been demonstrated. Institutions that were not in the top 20 had mixed results, with half showing growth and the other half showing declines. These varying results may be related to economic factors, the receipt of key major gifts in one year and not the other, campaign status or other factors unique to individual institutions.

Looking ahead, the VSE researchers suggest that giving to higher education in the current economic environment is likely to decline. This, too, is consistent with the latest findings of the CFI. In January, respondents to the CFI predicted a nearly 2 percent decline in giving for calendar year 2009.

It is important to note that private giving in the United States still accounts for less than 10 percent of a college or university's operating budget, and some 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.

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.