Wednesday, March 4, 2009

University fundraising . . . in this economy

The economy is affecting everyone. I suppose it was just a matter of time before it started to pluck holes in the pockets of the nation's elite universities. For example, Harvard University, as Peter Coy noted:
is expecting a roughly $11 billion endowment decline over the current academic year-- 30% of the total . . . [T]he university is in such a financial squeeze that it has frozen faculty salaries and offered retirement to 1,600 employees.
Ouch. This is a problem when Harvard "gets about one-third of operating funds from its endowment."  Unfortunately, the problem is not confined to Harvard; the outlook is not much better elsewhere.

As an interesting caveat, I also came across a study from the Council for Aid to Education, which surprisingly showed substantial gains in fundraising at many elite universities. The study notes that contributions to the top 20 fundraising institutions--which "account for only 1.9% of the 1,052 survey respondents, but represent 26.6% of all 2008 gifts to higher education institutions"--jumped 11.5% from 2007 numbers. The top five institutions were:
1. Stanford University ($785.04 million)
2. Harvard University ($650.63 million)
3. Columbia University ($495.11 million)
4. Yale University ($486.61 million)
5. University of Pennsylvania ($475.96 million)
The study includes a barrage of interesting statistics on university fundraising patterns (if you're into that sort of stuff). Specifically, it notes that the 2008 numbers are likely not sustainable in 2009--principally due to the economy. The numbers also beg the question--in the spirit of this blog--of how much the "trickle-down" effect might hurt law schools affiliated with these institutions.


  1. Obviously it will hurt, but who cares?

  2. 3:36, your point is well taken; I just thought the statistics were interesting.

  3. Don't worry Nima!

    I was just teasing. I like your content.


  4. 2010 wasn't much better than 2009. However, I think the financial crisis is somewhat masking other aspects of the fundraising and donations issue. People have changed the way they interact online, and that has changed the way they give.

    Universities have huge dinners every year and raise money by charging $1000 or so per plate. That model has worked well for years, but it's only really targeting 10% of alumni.

    There's another 90% out there who are probably willing to donate $50 or $100 per year. It's not much, but when you start getting thousands of those donations, it starts to add up.


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