Report: Gifts to universities flat despite market recovery

Stanford University and Harvard University, the top fundraisers among U.S. colleges, saw donations decline in fiscal 2010 as a recovering stock market failed to instill donors with confidence.

Donations to the nation’s colleges rose 0.54 percent to $28 billion in the 12 months ended June 30 from $27.9 billion a year earlier, the Council for Aid to Education, a nonprofit organization in New York, said Wednesday in a report. When adjusted for inflation, the amount fell 0.62 percent. Gifts to Stanford fell 6.4 percent to $599 million, while Harvard saw a decline of 0.78 percent, to $597 million, according to the report. Stanford topped Harvard for the sixth year in a row.

The national total for gifts to universities rose less than the stock market because donors didn’t regain confidence, said Eugene R. Tempel, president of the Bloomington-based Indiana University Foundation, whose fundraising surged 38 percent to $343 million mostly because of a $60 million injection from Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 12 percent in the year ended June 30.

“The stock market increased dramatically, but it’s not back to where it was and people still don’t have the same wealth that they used to have and they remember that,” Tempel, 63, said in a telephone interview.

More donors are emerging now, Tempel said. The Indiana foundation received 425 gifts of stock in December, up from 322 a year earlier, according to data from the university. Donations to U.S. colleges can be expected to climb for fiscal 2011 “if the S&P continues to hold,” Tempel said. The S&P index has risen 27 percent so far in fiscal 2011.

College gifts outperformed the S&P index in the decade through June 30, rising 21 percent from $23.2 billion at the end of fiscal 2000. The S&P index fell 29 percent during the period.

Stanford, near Palo Alto, Calif., raised the most money in fiscal 2010, and Cambridge, Mass.-based Harvard placed second, according to the council report. Of the 20 universities that collected the most, 13 recorded declines from fiscal 2009.

“Our donor constituency was still recovering from the dramatic stock market decline and economic recession that began in 2008 and continued well into 2009,” Martin Shell, Stanford’s vice president for development, said in an e-mail.

The U.S. recession that began in December 2007 ended 18 months later, in June 2009, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, in Cambridge.

Stanford’s 8.5 percent growth in donors to 76,500 in fiscal 2010 is an indicator of future support, Shell said in a telephone interview.

Alumni of Stanford, which opened in 1891, include Philip Knight, 72, chairman of Nike Inc., based in Beaverton, Oregon.

Harvard, the nation’s richest university, was “very pleased with the momentum that we have seen,” Tamara Elliott Rogers, vice president for alumni affairs and development, said in a statement. “Last year, Harvard fundraising held steady despite the unpredictable economic circumstances that all alumni and donors faced.”

Harvard, established in 1636, counts among its alumni the philanthropist David M. Rockefeller Sr., who said in 2008 he would give $100 million to the university. Harvard won’t receive the gift until Rockefeller’s death, according to a statement at the time of the donation. Rockefeller is 95.

Gifts to Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y., fell 31 percent to $308 million, after the total for fiscal 2009 was fattened by $170 million from Sanford Weill, 77, the former chief executive officer of New York-based Citigroup Inc., and his wife, Joan.

“Large gifts play a big factor in the numbers for all universities and it certainly influenced ours as well,” Charlie Phlegar, Cornell’s vice president for alumni affairs and development, said in a telephone interview.

Yale University, in New Haven, Conn., recorded a 6.4 percent gain in gifts to $381 million, according to the survey. On June 30, Yale will end a five-year campaign to raise $3.5 billion. In December, the university said it received a $50 million commitment from Edward P. Evans, a former publishing executive, to help construct a building for the School of Management. Evans died on Dec. 31, at age 68, the Associated Press reported.

The council survey counts money received by colleges in the fiscal year, including cash, stocks and real estate. Pledges don’t count. The annual report is based on survey responses from 996 institutions. For fiscal 2009, the report showed that contributions fell 12 percent, the most in at least four decades.

“Before giving is going to rebound strongly, people have to be confident in the future of the economy as opposed to merely secure just in the present moment,” Ann E. Kaplan, the survey director, said in an interview.

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