Gains in Giving to Higher Education Offset by Decline in Individual Gifts in 2016, Survey Finds

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Charitable gifts to America’s colleges and universities remained largely stagnant in 2016, in part due to the effects of a weak stock market on individual giving, according to the latest Voluntary Support of Education survey released earlier this week by the Council on Aid to Education (CAE). Although gifts from individual donors, corporations, foundations, and others reached $41 billion — $10 billion more than in 2012 — a rise in the inflation rate eliminated most of that gain.

Gifts from individual donors and alumni declined in 2016. Gifts from alumni dropped 8.5 percent, while gifts from non-alumni individuals dipped 6 percent. This decline was enough to nearly offset significant increases in giving by corporations ($6.6 billion, up 13.3 percent from 2015) and foundations ($12.5 billion, up 6 percent).

The effect of stock market performance on giving to education is so pronounced because gifts from individual donors and alumni are by far the largest source of charitable donations — representing 42.5 percent (nearly $19 billion) in 2016. These percentages vary from year to year, but the proportions have remained relatively constant since the 2008 recession.

Sue Cunningham, president and CEO of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), which sponsors the annual Voluntary Support of Education survey, hailed the increase in giving by foundations and corporations as “a sign of the growing understanding between these entities and campuses across the country regarding how they can work together to advance similar goals.” Cunningham also counseled that while individual giving declined in 2016, it is still up nearly 7 percent over just two years earlier.

“Similarly, some closely held companies and donor-advised funds are used by individuals to fund their personal philanthropic intentions,” Cunningham explained, noting that had those gifts been tallied in the individual-giving category, individual giving in 2016 would have increased by 10.9 percent.

Over 600 colleges and universities participated in the 2016 Voluntary Support of Education survey , the authoritative source for data and trends on private giving to colleges and universities in the United States. CAE made the official survey results available for purchase on February 7.

Author: Paul Lagasse

Paul Lagasse provides expert-to-expert communications services to nonprofit, business, and government clients in the metro Baltimore-DC area. Specialties include science and medical writing, technical report editing, and content marketing.