Contributions to MU increasing

Nationwide giving to higher education went up in 2004, according to study.
Friday, March 4, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:14 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

After two years without growth, charitable contributions to U.S. colleges and universities increased 3.4 percent last year to a record $24.4 billion, according to a report released on Wednesday.

MU reported a 9 percent increase in donations since last year.

The nationwide boost was driven by a 9.7 percent increase in giving from individual donors, including a 21.5 percent surge in giving by non-alumni individuals. That offset a 6.1 percent decline in giving by foundations.

Among alumni, total giving increased slightly, but the percentage of alumni donating went down, as it has every year since 2001.

Harvard University led the list by raising $540 million, according to the latest annual survey by the Council for Aid to Education, a unit of the RAND Corporation. UCLA, 10th overall, raised the most of any public university, $262 million.

Overall, alumni donations last year accounted for 28 percent of university giving, non-alumni individuals 21 percent, corporations 18 percent and foundations 25 percent. Foundations generally increase giving at a slower pace than individuals when the economy recovers, as it has in the past two years.

The remaining 8 percent was contributed by religious and other organizations.

Although the increase in overall contributions barely outpaced inflation, Ann Kaplan of the Council for Aid to Education called the results “not too bad” considering the decline in foundation grants. She said she expects those grants to increase in the future.

The overall increase followed zero growth in 2003 and a decline in 2002, the first since 1988.

MU reported in the survey that it received $70.5 million in contributions in 2004, a 9 percent increase from the previous year. In 2003, MU received $64.7 million.

Alumni contributions have decreased since last year. In 2004, alumni contributed $16.6 million, a 4.93 percent decrease from the $17.46 million in donations in 2003.

Kaplan said the nationwide increase is due to a stronger economy and more effective fund raising.

“Fund-raising behavior has a strong effect,” she said. “The number one reason people make gifts is being asked. Without that, the economy’s not going to have much of an effect on giving.”

Increase in gifts from non-alumni donors often came from parents of alumni, community members or donors who want to back specific research. But while total alumni giving increased 2 percent to $6.7 billion, the percentage of alumni donating fell to 12.8 percent. This figure has steadily decreased since it was 13.8 percent in 2001.

Kaplan said this might be because colleges are keeping better records and have more alumni to target. But she said universities might also be focused on securing larger donations from major donors rather than getting smaller gifts from a broad base of alumni. If that’s the case, she said, the strategy could negatively affect future fund raising.

“Alumni who make small gifts tend to be the people who end up making large gifts,” Kaplan said.

The Voluntary Support of Education Survey was based on replies from 971 institutions, a group that accounts for about 85 percent of voluntary support raised by colleges and universities.

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