Brown ranked 39th in charitable contributions

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Brown had the 39th highest level of charitable contributions among American colleges and universities in 2006, according to recently released results from the Voluntary Support of Education survey, conducted by the Council for Aid to Education. Brown currently ranks directly above University of Texas Southwest Medical Center at Dallas and below Washington University in St. Louis.

Brown has fallen in rank from 2005, when it was 29th and ranked directly above Princeton University and below the California Institute of Technology. Charitable contributions to the University decreased from $164 million in fiscal year 2005 to $126.4 million in fiscal year 2006.

Despite this drop in donations from 2005 to 2006, donations remain at historically high levels. The University is currently undertaking its $1.4-billion Campaign for Academic Enrichment, and last year’s donation levels were indicative of the campaign’s fundraising efforts, said Ann Kaplan, director of the VSE Survey. The fiscal year 2006 donation levels were above those of the two years prior to the campaign’s launch, the two years prior to the University’s public launch of the campaign.

In 2006, Brown received the majority of its charitable donations from foundations and alums. Those two groups gave $52.2 and $48.l million to the University, respectively.

Brown was not the only school raking in the money last year. Charitable donations to American universities reached a record high of $28 billion in 2006 – an increase of 9.4 percent from the previous year. Kaplan said favorable economic conditions may have played a significant role in this increase.

“The climate for capital purpose contributions was quite good for most of the year … particularly during the period at calendar-year end when contributors are most likely to have tax considerations in addition to philanthropy in mind,” according to a Council for Aid to Education press release.

The improved economy did not account for all of the increase, but it allowed for people to donate more, Kaplan said.

Nationally, donations did not increase uniformly across all types of donors. Donations from alums and other individuals increased significantly, at 18.3 percent and 14 percent increases, respectively. But donations from organizations did not increase as sharply, with levels of increase hovering around 5 percent.

The lower increase in giving by organizations may be due to the economic conditions of 2004. “The foundations made gifts based on past year’s assets,” not based on the current year’s economic conditions, Kaplan said. Donations to Hurricane Katrina victims may have drawn foundation funds away from universities, she added.

“This year the increase was somewhat more top-heavy than usual,” Kaplan said. “The percentage of alumni who (gave) declined, but the amount given increased.”

Kaplan said donations from individuals included greater proportions of “large gifts” as compared to years past. Larger donations from fewer individuals may be indicative of more ongoing capital campaigns than usual, she added. Stanford University, which received the most donations in 2006 with $911.16 million, is in the middle of a capital campaign.

Other Ivy League schools in the midst of capital campaigns also fared well last year. Yale, Cornell and Columbia universities are all currently conducting capital campaigns and they were third, fifth and eighth on the 2006 list.

Approximately half of the donations made to all colleges in 2006 will go toward building capital. This money will not be spent, but any income derived from investing it may be used by the institution in the future. The other half of the donations will be put toward ongoing operations of the university. Each donation is usually earmarked for some specific activity, Kaplan said.

For the last 50 years, the Council for Aid to Education has collected data from American universities on a voluntary basis and created a database of all the participating schools giving private information.

“The estimates have wide ranging use,” Kaplan said. “(The survey) has a use among certain institutions for benchmarking and making fundraising more efficient … the other purpose is to create public information for policy makers, the media.”

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