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Posted at 03:57 PM ET, 04/23/2012

College giving rebounds as donor base shrinks

Fewer people are giving more money to American colleges, and the industry may be staging a modest rebound from the slowdown in higher-education fundraising that accompanied the 2008 economic downturn, according to a new report.


University of Alabama graduates at their 2011 commencement. Younger alumni aren’t giving at the same rate as their parents, a new study has found. (Michelle Lepianka Carter — AP Photo/ Tuscaloosa News)

But young alumni aren’t giving at the same rate as their parents, and the typical school’s alumni giving rate may never recover, the report found.

Median revenue per donor rose from $450 to $474 between the 2010 and 2011 fiscal years, according to the Blackbaud Index of Higher Education, released last week. The median school in the index saw revenue rise 6 percent in 2011 and 6 percent in 2010, after a 13 percent drop in fiscal 2009. But the number of donors was down 1 percent at the median school, following a similarly modest drop in 2010 and a larger drop in 2009.

The index summarizes giving at a cross section of more than 100 public and private colleges, including Johns Hopkins and James Madison universities and the universities of Maryland and Richmond.

“Most measures were in positive territory compared to 2010 results, and there is evidence that the worst of the economic decline is behind us,” said Shaun Keister, co-author of the report, and vice chancellor of development and alumni relations at the University of California-Davis. “Programs are beginning to grow again, despite challenges with reactivating lapsed donors and acquiring new ones.”

It was a bounce-back year, particularly in terms of total donated revenue. But universities have struggled since the start of the slowdown to “reactivate” lapsed donors and to expand the donor base generally, which points to a possible new reality for fundraisers in academia.

The typical university struggled to reclaim lost donors in 2009 and struggled again in 2011, after a flat 2010. Young alumni appear less inclined to give, which drives down overall alumni participation rates — the median participation rate dipped in each of the last three years.

“The opportunity to bolster participation rates has all but disappeared in an era where younger alumni are not inclined to support higher education at the same rates as their parents and grandparents,” the study states.

By  |  03:57 PM ET, 04/23/2012

Categories:  Development, Finance | Tags:  college fundraising, higher education

 
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