About CASE

Pam Russell
director of communications


For Immediate Release
Feb. 3, 2010

Statement on the Results of the 2009 Voluntary Support of Education Survey

Statement by CASE President John Lippincott

The steep and unprecedented 11.9 percent decline in giving to U.S. colleges and universities in 2008-09 indicates that the impact of the recession on donors and the institutions they support was even greater than anticipated.

The Council for Aid to Education's Voluntary Support of Education Survey indicates that donors gave $27.85 billion to higher education last year. The total is slightly lower than the $28 billion given three years earlier in 2005-06, suggesting that it may take time for giving to rebound to the record of $31.6 billion recorded in 2007-08.

The actual results for the year ended June 30, 2009, as reported by the VSE are significantly lower than those predicted by fundraisers in a poll taken by CASE last July. At that time, respondents to the CASE Fundraising Index (CFI) estimated fundraising would be off by roughly 4 percent from the previous year. A number of factors could explain the gap between the CFI estimate and the VSE results, including differences in methodology and survey populations. Nonetheless, the significant variance underscores the difficulty of making predictions in the current environment as well as the wide differences in the experiences of individual institutions in a volatile economy.

The 2008-09 VSE results indicate total giving from alumni and non-alumni individuals, historically about half of all giving to education, dropped more than giving from any other donor group (including foundations, corporations and religious organizations) and now accounts for less than 45 percent of the total. It should be noted, however, that this figure does not include giving from family foundations and donor-advised funds, which are often preferred vehicles for individual contributions.

Alumni participation rates, or the percent of living and contactable alumni who donate in a given year, also declined. The drop in the participation rate is in part due to an increase in the number of alumni on record; however, there does appear to have been a real decline in the number of alumni donors (assuming that they did not make a significant shift to giving through family foundations and donor-advised funds).

The decline in giving to capital projects and the relative stability of giving for current operations are not surprising given the tendency of donors to support the most pressing needs in challenging times. In addition, many institutions increased their focus on raising funds for scholarships and financial aid given the impact of the recession on students and families.

It is important to note that the experiences of individual institutions vary widely from the averages. Not all institutions experienced declines in giving in 2008-09; indeed, some reported significant increases. Moreover, specific results regarding sources and types of support appear to differ significantly from institution to institution. These variations may be attributed to a number of factors, including campaign status, donor base and the maturity of the fundraising efforts, and even the geography of a given institution.

In addition to declines in private support, institutions also faced—and continue to face—financial stress due to recession-driven cuts in state funds and the declining values of their endowments. Even though private support accounts for 10 percent or less of most operating budgets and cannot replace the need for funding from other sources, including government funds and tuition, it remains a critically important resource that contributes to the success of educational institutions and the students and communities they serve. In fact, even with last year's decline in giving, the fundraising program remains one of the best investments an institution can make.

The VSE survey is voluntary and requires participants to report their numbers following the CASE Reporting Standards & Management Guidelines for Educational Fundraising, 4th edition. The reporting standards are also the basis of the annual CASE survey on educational fundraising campaigns.

Looking forward, fundraisers responding to CASE's most recent CFI poll predicted that giving would increase by 3.7 percent in the 2010 calendar year.

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.

About CASE

CASE believes in advancing education to transform lives and society. As a global nonprofit membership association of educational institutions, CASE helps develop the communities of professional practice that build institutional resilience and success in challenging times. The communities include staff engaged in alumni relations, fundraising, marketing, student recruitment, stakeholder engagement, crisis communications and government relations. CASE is volunteer-led and uses the intellectual capital of senior practitioners to build capacity and capability across the world.

CASE has offices in Washington, D.C., London, Singapore and Mexico City. Member institutions include more than 3,700 colleges and universities, primary and secondary independent and international schools, and nonprofit organizations in 82 countries. CASE serves nearly 88,000 practitioners. For more information about CASE, please visit www.case.org.