Publications & Products
February 2017
Volume 15 Issue 2

Research and News of Note

Leaders Speak Out on Charitable Giving Deduction

VSE Report: CASE President Encouraged by Charitable Growth

Endowment Growth Stays Average, but Giving Continues to Rise in 2016

Communications Challenges Made Easier for Nonprofits in 2016

White Paper Examines Institutionally Related Foundations Performance

Communications and Marketing Significant for Institutions

Why Are Chinese Universities Falling Behind in Race for Giving?


Leaders Speak Out on Charitable Giving Deduction

Nonprofit leaders headed to Capitol Hill Thursday, Feb. 16, to speak out on the charitable giving tax deduction.

Organized by the Charitable Giving Coalition, representatives from nonprofit organizations—including two dozen CASE-member institutions—met with lawmakers to discuss possible changes to the U.S. tax code that may hamper donations to charitable organizations.

CASE President and CEO Sue Cunningham joined a delegation of leaders from Connecticut, who met with staff in the offices of Sen. Chris Murphy and Reps. Elizabeth Esty, John Larson and James Himes. In a blog post, Cunningham reported that their concerns were "well received."

"[Moreover, this] was an important reminder of the value of building relationships—and that usually the best way to do that is for us to get out of our offices and extend a warm handshake and smile."

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the charitable giving donation, a tax benefit for nonprofit donors. Several proposals being considered by lawmakers could cap the deduction or limit who can take it. Cunningham and CASE members urged lawmakers to instead adopt a universal deduction for any taxpayer, regardless of income, who donates to charity.

Read Cunningham's blog post.


VSE Report: CASE President Encouraged by Charitable Growth

Another record year of charitable giving, at $41 billion, will have "enormous impact" on U.S. colleges and universities, says CASE President and CEO Sue Cunningham. 

According to the VSE survey, charitable contributions to colleges and universities increased from $40.3 billion in 2015 to $41 billion in 2016, the highest total recorded since the survey launched in 1957.

In a statement, Cunningham noted the $1.7 billion increase in contributions from 2015 to 2016 from foundations and corporations as a sign of the growing understanding between these entities and campuses across the country.

Additionally, this year's results show that direct support of student financial aid clearly remains an important donor priority with 16.8 percent of total support being given for that purpose.

"The report gives us an opportunity to thank the thousands of people and institutions that are supporting U.S. higher education, and to celebrate all that this generosity is making possible," Cunningham said. "For example, donations earmarked for research—the largest share of designated funds—help spark technological innovation and medical breakthroughs, and fund myriad other types of research that are advancing humanity throughout the world."

The VSE survey is conducted annually by the Council for Aid to Education and sponsored by CASE.


Endowment Growth Stays Average, but Giving Continues to Rise in 2016

The rate of growth for endowments of U.S. colleges and universities maintained an average rate in 2016, according to the NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. The 805 U.S. institutions that participated collectively reported an average return of -1.9 percent for fiscal year 2016 compared with 2.4 percent for fiscal year 2015.

This year's negative return following the 2.4 percent return growth contributed to a decline in the 10-year average, according to the report. It is the lowest endowment performance since the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

Although endowment returns are lower, many institutions continue to increase spending from their endowed funds to support student financial aid, research and other essential programs. In fiscal year 2016, 74 percent of survey participants raised their endowment spending and the median spending increase was 8.1 percent.

"These substantial increases in spending from endowments demonstrate the deep commitment colleges and universities have to student access and success," said NACUBO President and CEO John D. Walda. "Nonetheless, this year's results are cause for concern. Continued below-average investment returns will undoubtedly make it much more difficult for colleges and universities to support their missions in the future."

The average endowment of the NCSE participant was about $639 million; nearly half of the participants had endowments that were below $100 million.

The annual NCSE analyzes data about returns and related information reported by U.S. public and private universities and their supporting foundations.


Communications Challenges Made Easier for Nonprofits in 2016

Communications teams in the nonprofit sector have improved in 2016, according to a trends report on nonprofit communications.

The Nonprofit Communications Trends 6th Annual Report gathered information about challenges faced by nonprofit communicators. Many organizations cited interpersonal communications as a top challenge. The report emphasized the importance of communications for nonprofits and calls sound management a good indication of the organization's effectiveness.

The results from 2015 to 2016 show sizable communication improvements in the following:

• Collaboration: The survey reports the majority of nonprofits said collaboration within their communications teams, alongside their fundraising and program staff, improved in 2016.
• Staffing: The level of expertise of individual staff members improved throughout the year.
• Relationships with executives: The survey found that relationships between communications staff and leaders improved. More than 50 percent of effective teams reported having extraordinary correspondence with their executive directors.
• Work process: One third of nonprofits reported that communication clarity and procedures improved while half stayed the same.

Other finds of the study include:

- 2016 salaries for communications directors at nonprofits increased 11.5 percent.
- After self-ranking, nonprofits ranked their effective communication was a 3.3 stars out of 5.


White Paper Examines Institutionally Related Foundations Performance

Institutionally related foundations have evolved significantly during the past five years and are well-positioned to provide "crucial support to their institutions in the years to come," reports a recently released CASE white paper.

The 2015 Institutionally Related Foundations Data Book Survey: A Five-Year Review of Results provides a snapshot of five years of data and compares foundation performance from 2011 to 2015. The white paper focuses on four areas of foundation operations: staffing fundraising, expenses and funding sources, and endowment.

Key findings include:

  • Overall staff sizes increased by nearly 60 percent; development staff size increased by nearly 82 percent
  • Foundations are raising much more money today than in 2011; private support has increased by nearly 29 percent among the surveyed foundations.
  • Expenses have almost doubled in the last five years as a reflection of increased staff sizes; as a percentage of total expenses, development expenses grew only 3 percentage points to about 45 percent.
  • Average annual endowment returns slowed to 2 percent in FY2015 but the effective spending rate remained constant at its for-year 3.9 percent average.

CASE launched the IRF Data Book Survey as a tool for foundations to benchmark their structure, staffing and operations against their peer foundations and the institutionally related foundation field as a whole. It surveys institutionally related foundations in the United States representing a range of institution types-from research universities to community colleges.

Read the white paper for complete details.


Communications and Marketing Significant for Institutions

Institutional leaders have "fully realized the significance" of the communications and marketing function and the "hurdle of justification" has been cleared for most practitioners. These are among the findings of a recently published CASE white paper.

Findings from the 2015 CASE Educational Communications and Marketing Trends Survey reports that despite an onslaught of demands from internal and external customers, the function has become the "foundation for a wide range of critical activities at every institution."

This second, biennial survey of trends benchmarks the investments and staffing in communications and marketing at independent schools, colleges and universities worldwide. The white paper also reports on the study's results, the strategies and tactics used across key audiences, and findings on management and structures, budgetary support and the challenges and opportunities faced by communications and marketing professionals.

Key findings from this report include:

  • The majority of chief officers (51 percent) at four-year institutions report directly to the institution's president or CEO. 
  • Digital content or social media at 24 percent was the most frequently cited new area or initiative; funding the institutional website was mentioned in about 14 percent of new offerings.
  • Consistent communications, developing and implementing strategies, and branding are the top three areas occupying the time of the senior staff surveyed.
  • Ninety percent of survey participants say they rely on graphic standards or guidelines for centralized campus communications and marketing efforts followed by a crisis communications plan (74 percent), social media guidelines or policies (74 percent) and a communications and marketing plan (73 percent)


Why Are Chinese Universities Falling Behind in Race for Giving?

Recent donations made by Chinese billionaires to Western universities have sparked controversy after critics say donor support of China's education sector is lacking, according to the South China Morning Post.

One of the most recent contributions under criticism was made by Chinese entrepreneurs Chen Tianqiao and Chrissy Luo Qianqian. The couple announced last month that they would be donating $115 million to the California Institute of Technology to help fund brain research.

The South China Morning Post reports that this isn't the first couple to come under fire for donating a large sum of money to an American university. Property moguls Pan Shiyi and Zhang Xin donated $15 million to Harvard University in 2014, which was ill-received by many professionals in the Chinese education sector.

Some question why significant gifts are going to Western universities instead of Chinese institutions. "Experts say donors are cautious about giving to Chinese universities because the country's donation soliciting system is fundamentally unsound and the way funds are used is opaque," reports the South China Morning Post.

In the article, Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of 21st Century Education's research institute, said that one of the reasons many wealthy individuals donate abroad is because they are dissatisfied with the lack of regulations placed on donations in China. Another source noted donor concerns surrounding the appropriate use of their donations.