A strong stock market in December 2021 buoyed giving to colleges and universities during the last financial year, which ran from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022. Institutions raised $59.5 billion in gifts from organizations and individuals during the 2022 financial year — a 4.7 percent increase, adjusted for inflation, over the previous year’s totals. That’s the most growth in giving since 2000. The findings come from the latest Voluntary Support of Education survey, which polled 826 institutions. The Council for Advancement and Support of Education has conducted the survey since 1957.
Colleges and universities were fortunate that the calendar year-end — when most donors give — fell during a multi-month period of robust stock-market growth. The number of gifts of stock given to institutions increased in the 2022 financial year, according to Ann Kaplan, senior director of the Voluntary Support of Education survey.
“Part of what the report is capturing here is the timing and level of gifts rather than the impulse to give,” Kaplan says. “The level of your giving is determined by a lot of surrounding economic factors. In this case, one of the big ones was how high the stock market was at calendar year-end 2021.”
Institutions closed out the financial year in a very different giving environment. By June 30, stock-market indexes had plummeted. What that portends for the current financial year remains to be seen, but CASE chief executive Sue Cunningham did note that decades of VSE data have shown a “close correlation” between the direction of the stock market and an increase or decrease in giving. Despite these potential headwinds, Kaplan says fundraisers should keep showing donors and potential donors why their institution is a sound investment.
“You should always maintain relationships with people who care about your institution,” Kaplan says. “When they have the means, then that will come to fruition as a charitable gift.”
Data Shows Who Is Giving and to What
Nearly 80 percent of funds raised during the 2022 financial year supported restricted endowments — such as financial aid — and current operations, such as research. Donors increased their giving to restricted endowments .
Just over a quarter of these dollars — $15.72 billion — went to 20 colleges and universities, mostly research and doctoral institutions.
Endowment support signals that donors believe in the impact a well-resourced college can make, says Cunningham.
It also shows trust in the institution, Kaplan adds, noting that donors wouldn’t give to an endowment they don’t believe is well managed. “You have your own financial adviser. If they’re doing a better job than a university, you keep [the money] and you make outright gifts,” she says.
Giving to two-year colleges fell (15.4 percent, without adjustment for the 9.1 percent inflation rate),, driven in part by a return to normal after MacKenzie Scott’s mega-gifts to some of these institutions during the 2021 financial year.
Individual donors who contributed more than $5,000 — just 5 percent of all donors — powered giving during the last financial year. Dollars from this group amounted to 95 percent of all money given that year.
Nearly 2 percent of all financial year 2022 contributions came from seven gifts of $100 million or more — four from foundations, two from donor-advised funds, and one from a living individual.
Alumni increased their giving 2.6 percent, adjusted for inflation, and this year’s survey offered new insights into which alumni gave. For the first time, respondents answered a question about how alumni giving varied based on when they graduated. Nearly 40 percent of alumni gifts came from individuals who had graduated more than 50 years before; some 15 percent of alumni in this group gave. Another 51 percent of alumni support came from donors who graduated 21 to 50 years earlier. Thirty-one percent of alumni in that age range made gifts.
The younger alumni got, however, the less likely they were to give. Individuals who were five years or less out of college represented 6 percent of alumni donors but contributed less than 1 percent of the money attributed to alumni.
Kaplan warns colleges not to use this data as license to ignore younger alumni until they’ve been out 20 years. “Obviously, once they’re in a position to make those gifts, the relationship has to already be there,” he says.
Another change to this year’s survey was the inclusion of donor-advised funds as their own sub-category within giving from organizations. That’s the same way giving from foundations and corporations is counted. Previously, donor-advised funds were lumped in with “other organizations,” which also included groups like Rotary Clubs and religious organizations. Altogether, organizations increased their giving 6.7 percent, adjusted for inflation, during the last financial year.
Donor-advised funds have become a major artery for giving — even outpacing corporate giving in financial year 2021 — and Cunningham hopes this change will help CASE members better understand how to attract gifts from donor-advised funds.