University Fundraising Falls 12 Percent in 2009

February 3, 2010 - 8:48 AM
Individual giving dropped in both dollars and participation numbers. Gifts for endowments and new buildings saw the biggest decreases.
Seattle (AP) - Charitable contributions to colleges and universities plummeted an average 11.9 percent nationwide in 2009, the steepest drop in at least three decades, according to a new report.
 
Individual giving dropped in both dollars and participation numbers. Gifts for endowments and new buildings saw the biggest decreases, according to the Council for Aid to Education, which released its 2009 fiscal report on Wednesday.
 
Donation declines piled on top of endowment drops averaging 22 percent, plus state budget cuts for public colleges.
 
"We knew that this was going to be a bad year," said Ann E. Kaplan, director of the survey, who noted that 2009 was a bad year for both the institutions and the donors who support them. "Nothing that came out of the numbers surprised me very much."
 
One area of giving that did not decline as much was gifts from organizations, including corporations, foundations, religious organizations and other nonprofits.
 
Stanford University took in $640.1 million and was at the top of the fiscal 2009 fundraising list, followed by Harvard, Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania. The annual report was based on 1,027 survey responses.
 
Stanford held onto its top spot, despite a drop in fundraising income of $175 million, because most of the other universities on the Top 20 list also saw dramatic decreases.
 
Harvard's fundraising income went down $50 million, the University of California, Los Angeles, dropped by nearly $105 million, and even the school known for attracting the most medical research dollars -- Johns Hopkins University -- saw its income drop by about $16 million.
 
A few saw changes in the opposite direction, including Cornell University, with a fundraising increase of $38 million, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with an increase of about $7 million.
 
Kaplan said on Tuesday that many universities are expecting 2010 to be a better year for fundraising, because some donors were waiting to see the stock market improve before making some planned gifts.
 
But she did not expect the improvement to bring donations back up to 2008 levels.
 
"If the past is an indication of the future, things should start to recover now. How quickly that's going to happen, I'm not sure," she said.
 
The 20 institutions that raised the most money in 2009 brought in $7.28 billion, which was $1.13 billion less than the top 20 top schools raised in 2008.
 
But 2009 wasn't bad for every college. The University of Washington -- No. 12 on the Council for Aid to Education's list -- had its best fundraising year in history, said Walt Dreyfoos, associate vice president of advancement services.
 
It brought in $324 million in fiscal 2009 -- an increase of more than $20 million over 2008.
 
Individual donations were down at the Seattle university last year, but corporate and foundation dollars going mostly to research remained strong. In addition to research money, the university was still collecting on multiyear pledges from a record-breaking capital campaign that ended in June 2008.
 
"You look at the state's investment in this university. And then you look at the private sector's support for this university. The private sector is voting with its wallet, saying this is a great university," Dreyfoos said.
 
Donations for the current fiscal year are down compared 2009, he added, but he wasn't sure what additional dollars would come in before the end of June.
 
"I hate making predictions because it kind of assumes people's generosity," Dreyfoos said.