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How Much Did You Give? Donations to Colleges Total $28 Billion in 2010

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This morning my mailbox was graced with the latest edition of my alma mater’s quarterly journal. I hardly ever read that glossy magazine from cover-to-cover, but I always flip through it for awhile before tossing it aside.

It’s usually a pretty decent mixture of articles about current students and professors, some impressive photos of what’s happening on campus and a section of alumni updates, but one thing’s a given—there’s always a handy-dandy envelope tucked inside, should the urge to send in a donation strike me while I’m remembering my college days.

U.S. Colleges Receive $28 Billion in Charitable Gifts in 2010

I might as well be honest and admit that I’ve yet to mail in a check, but according to the annual Voluntary Support of Education survey conducted by the Council for Aid to Education, charitable contributions to colleges and universities in the United States reached the $28 billion mark in 2010— a 0.5 percent increase from the previous year.

Adjusted for inflation, though, contributions fell by 0.6 percent in 2010 and by 8 percent compared to 2006, notes Inside Higher Ed. While these figures might have been discouraging in years past, any gain at all is seen as positive for 2010. A decline of 11.9 percent occurred in 2009, the steepest drop ever recorded since the council started tracking giving to colleges in 1969.

Average Alumni Donation is Down

The survey, which counts cash gifts to institutions of higher education, included about 1,000 colleges and universities. It found that the percentage of alumni who donate dropped to a record low of 9.8 percent, a 0.4 percent decrease from 2009, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. The size of the average alumni gift decreased as well—$1,080 in 2010, opposed to $1,195 four years earlier.

Despite decreased donations from alumni, total giving is up thanks to increases in charitable contributions from corporations and foundations, which make up 17 and 30 percent, respectively, of total giving to colleges. Corporate giving had a 2.4 percent increase while foundation giving had a 2 percent increase in 2010.

Charitable Gifts are Moving in the Right Direction

“Up is good,” John Lippincott, president of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, told Inside Higher Ed. “Granted we’re talking half a percentage point, but I hope this is the beginning of a trend line that points in a different direction. If you look at it simply against last year, it’s a pretty remarkable bounceback.”

“We’re still not out of the woods. Charitable contributions to education are recovering very slowly,” Ann E. Kaplan, director of the council’s Voluntary Support of Education survey, told the New York Times. Kaplan feels that that the findings reflect the economy’s sluggish recovery. “Giving isn’t going to get there until circumstances get there,” she said in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Although the survey included 996 colleges and universities, the top 20 schools accounted for a quarter of all the gifts made to higher education in 2010.

Most Successful College Fundraisers in 2010 (in Millions)

1. Stanford: $598.9 in 2010; 6.4% decrease from 2009

2. Harvard: $597 in 2010; 0.8% decrease from 2009

3. Johns Hopkins: $427.6 in 2010; 1.3% decrease from 2009

4. University of Southern California: $426.0 in 2010; 15.5% increase from 2009

5. Columbia: $402.4 in 2010; 2.7% decrease from 2009

6. University of Pennsylvania: $381.6 in 2010; 13.2% decrease from 2009

7. Yale: $380.9 in 2010; 6.4% increase from 2009

8. NYU: $349.2 in 2010; 4.3% increase from 2009

9. Duke: $345.5 in 2010; 14.5% increase from 2009

10. Indiana University: $342.8 in 2010; 38.4% increase from 2009

Council president Lippincott feels that 2010 figures suggest that a recovery has started, but it will be a slow one. “Folks are still going to be skittish about large gifts,” he said.


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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