PMA Consulting, LLC

Philanthropy Trends in Higher Education – Glass Half Full?


In its annual Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) survey released in January, the Council for Advancement & Support of Education (CASE) delivered some encouraging news.

Listed below are some highlights from CASE President John Lippincott’s recent blog on the VSE.

  • The report indicated an 8.2 percent increase in giving to U.S. colleges and universities during the 2010-11 academic year.
  • “The total of $30.3 billion is not quite back to the pre-recession peak of $31.6 billion, but we may see the record matched or surpassed in the next couple of years depending upon the economy.”
  • “Giving for capital purposes rose much more rapidly than giving for current operations. This is consistent with historical patterns, as capital giving tends to track the stock market, while giving for current operations tracks more closely with growth in the GDP (gross domestic product).”
  • Alumni giving saw a modest increase in giving after two years of decline. “Direct donations from alumni accounted for a quarter of all giving to education for the year. Since some alumni make gifts through family foundations or donor-advised funds, actual giving from alumni is likely to be even higher.”
  • “Given the continued decline in state support for higher education and the importance of maintaining affordability, it’s worthwhile to remind ourselves that private giving represents less than 6 percent of a public institution’s operating expenses, on average, according to the CASE Advancement Investment Metrics Study. For private institutions, the figure is less than 15 percent. While philanthropy remains a critically important resource as institutions seek to increase educational quality and opportunity, it is not a replacement for funding from other sources.”
  • “…the fundraising program remains one of the best investments an institution can make, returning on average nearly $6 for every dollar invested, according to the AIMs study.” *

With giving to Higher Education trending upward, now is the time to invest and perhaps reinvest in smart, efficient fundraising practices such as technology-driven prospect research, wealth screening, smart and efficient social media practices and engaging, timely correspondence. Significant training in major gift fundraising should also yield positive results. For fundraising the same old way in this post-9/11, post-recession, post-you-name-it economy we live in, will likely net you the same old results of the past three years.

*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.