Higher-ed fundraising still struggling

Fundraising at nearly 1,000 U.S. colleges and universities was basically flat in 2010 and well below 2006 levels after factoring in inflation, a new study says.

The higher-education sector raised a total of $28 billion in fiscal 2010, up 0.5 percent over 2009, but down 0.6 percent after adjusting for inflation, says the Voluntary Support of Education survey, released by the Council for Aid to Education.

And on an inflation-adjusted basis, 2010 giving was 8 percent below fundraising levels reached four years ago.

While lackluster, last year’s performance is a welcome respite from the 11.9 percent drop in giving seen in 2009, which is the low-point for fundraising since the onset of the recession.

Gifts to the top 20 fundraising institutions, which together brought in $7.15 billion in 2010, was off by $130 million last year, but as a group they accounted for more than a quarter of all gifts to colleges and universities.

“We’re still not out of the woods,” Ann E. Kaplan, director of the survey, says in a statement. “Charitable contributions to education are recovering very slowly. As long as the economy continues to improve, we can expect further improvement in giving, even if incremental at first.”

Slightly more than half the schools reporting raised more in 2010 than in 2010, compared to only about 33 percent that saw increases in 2009.

Private liberal-arts colleges saw a combined fundraising increase of 2.9 percent in 2010, more than any other subsector, while specialized private institutions saw the greatest decrease of 19.9 percent.

The slight increase in overall giving was fueled by corporate giving, which grew 2.4 percent, and foundation giving, which was up 2 percent.

Alumni giving fell 0.4 percent in 2010, better than 2009’s drop of 18 percent, and the alumni participation rate fell to 9.8 percent from 10 percent in 2009.

Giving by non-alumni individuals was off 1.5 percent last year, an improvement over the 18.4 percent drop in 2009.

Once again, Stanford University raised more than any other school, bringing in almost $599 million, or 6.4 percent less than the $640 million it raised in 2009.

Gifts to Harvard totaled almost $597 million last year, down 0.8 percent, and Johns Hopkins raised almost $426 million, a loss of 1.3 percent over 2009.

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