Posted , by Wendy McGrady, Executive Vice President. Topic: Giving USA, Higher Education, Philanthropy Research & Events.

Good news for higher-ed advancement professionals—your hard work and investments in your fundraising program are paying off! As institutional budgets continue to shrink and the role of private philanthropy becomes more important than ever, it appears that your efforts are showing results.

Last month, our president Keith Curtis, immediate past chair of Giving USA Foundation, shared with you the overall findings of Giving USA 2017:  The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2016. This included the new record of $390.1 billion in American giving, which represented a 2.7% increase over the previous year.  Now it’s time to take a look at Giving USA‘s findings for giving to education, so we can determine the best way educational institutions—and particularly community colleges—can apply the data to their fundraising.


Highlights in Giving to Education

  • Was the fourth fastest growth subsector and has seen seven straight years of growth, averaging 8.2% per year
  • Accounted for 15% of total giving in 2016
  • Increased 3.6% between 2015 and 2016
  • Reached its highest inflation-adjusted value ever

It’s estimated that 70% of contributions to education in 2016 went to institutions of higher education. Similar studies and reports backing up the Giving USA findings:

The Nonprofit Research Collaborative’s (NRC) Winter 2017 Nonprofit Fundraising Study found 59% of education organizations responding to the survey reported an increase in charitable contributions received between 2015 and 2016.

The Council for Aid to Education reported a 1.7% increase in charitable revenue to institutions of higher education for the 2015–2016 academic year.

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) reported giving to colleges and universities grew 4.5%.


Strong Support for Community Colleges

Donations to community colleges in particular grew in 2016.  According to CASE Fundraising Index (which surveys development professionals twice per year), community colleges realized the greatest increase in giving last year, at 7.2%.

This growth may be fueled by the continued investment in fundraising that community colleges have made over the last several years. While resources are tight, strategies have been more sophisticated. Infrastructure investments have helped boost results.


Young Alumni Giving

Despite research that shows younger donors consider education as a top social issue, this concern is not translating into financial support of their alma maters. Giving days and crowdfunding have helped engage more young alumni as donors. For community colleges, strategies targeted to young grads still have to be tempered with past results and resources allocated carefully—first to communication with those alums and then to solicitation.


Large Campaigns Driving Increases

Gifts from ultra-high-net-worth individuals and $1 billion+ campaigns continued to drive giving in the education sector. Eight higher-ed institutions completed billion-dollar campaigns in 2016 and 38 were engaged in them.


Next Steps

As you invest in your fundraising, let us know if we can help. We were pleased to assist Blue Ridge Community College and Eastern Shore Community College with their successful campaigns last year, and we’re happy to be working with John Tyler Community College, Lord Fairfax Community College and New River Community College this year. We’d be happy to help you prepare for a campaign, train your board or staff, or conduct a thorough review of your development activities.

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