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U.S. Educational Fundraisers See Slower Growth in 2016-2017

Chief development officers at U.S. colleges and universities estimate that institutional fundraising grew just 2.3 percent during the academic year that ended June 30, 2017, compared to more optimistic projections of 5.5 percent growth made at the start of the year in July 2016.

Public and private post-secondary institutions in the U.S. differed sharply in their estimates of fundraising growth for the past year, with public institutions estimating growth of 3.9 percent for the year and private institutions estimating growth of just eight-tenths of a percent.

U.S. independent schools were more optimistic, estimating growth of 5.9 percent for 2016-17.

Post-secondary institutions (mostly public) outside of the U.S. estimated growth of 3.4 percent for the 2016-17 year.

Fundraisers from CASE's global membership of educational institutions were asked to estimate their fundraising performance in the academic year just ended and to project performance in the year ahead for the CASE Fundraising Index.

CASE also asked senior development officers to identify the factors that influenced fundraising for the 2016-17 year and opportunities and challenges for the year ahead.

Among the 23 percent of U.S. institutions reporting a decline in fundraising for 2016-17, several factors were consistently identified as accounting for the slowdown: Campaign cycles, institutional leadership transitions, and the distorting effect of large gifts. The prior presidential election was the only general environmental factor frequently cited as having had a negative impact on fundraising over the past year.

Looking ahead, U.S. colleges and universities predict growth in fundraising of 5.9 percent for the 2017-18 academic year. U.S. independent schools are more pessimistic, anticipating growth of 4.3 percent.

Post-secondary institutions outside the U.S. anticipate growth of 3.9 percent, and non-U.S. independent school expect growth of 5.3 percent.

Fundraisers see opportunity in the importance of education to economies, the satisfaction of their alumni, the commitment of donors, and enhanced analytical tools. They expressed concerns about the current political climate, economic instability, educational costs and student debt, staff turnover, donor fatigue, and potential changes to the tax code.

Learn more about the CASE Fundraising Index and view past results.

This article is from the September 2017 BriefCASE issue of BriefCASE.