Higher Education Received $52.9B in Gifts in FY21: Alumni Lead Growth, but Fewer Are Giving

Brian GaworVice President of ResearchMarch 4, 2022

Based on responses to the annual Voluntary Support of Education survey, CASE estimates that colleges and universities in the U.S. raised $52.90 billion during the 2020-2021 fiscal year, up from $49.50 billion the previous year. You can read the just-released survey brief at the Council For Advancement and Support of Education’s AMAtlas data hub.

Blog: VSE comparison 2022
From the CASE VSE 2021 Survey

Unrestriced, endowment and DAF gifts are up in FY21 higher education giving

Unrestricted gifts, while still a small portion of giving, rose a whopping 30 percent. Endowment gifts rose 17 percent, and donor-advised fund giving rose an estimated 27 percent.

There’s a lot at play here, from really great campaigns for emergency student support and other crucial needs, to changing ways Americans give. It’s clear, that when shown impact, budget-relieving or unrestricting giving is compelling to donors. And if you don’t have a donor-advised fund appeal and stewardship strategy, you want to get on that, right away.

Alumni giving rises, and makes up nearly a quarter of total giving

Contributions from alumni grew 10 percent, and the support to alma maters continues to be strong. It’s important to remember that alumni-influenced giving will also be part of the “other organizations” (mostly DAF) and foundation giving, with family foundations growing in popularity. There’s a lot to be grateful for as our loyal and generous alumni make a difference with giving.

Alumni donors grew in FY21 for over half of institutions, but most still haven’t rebounded from FY20 losses

I jumped in and crunched some numbers from the VSE data to explore alumni donor count. Fiscal year 2020 was a tough year for many institutions on alumni donors, which drives both ranking-influencing participation and the major donor pipeline. Eight in 10 institutions posted declines. In FY21, over half showed gains in alumni donor count, but nearly three quarters are still done from FY19.

Alumni Donor Total…2019-202020-212019-21

The best examples we have of institutions posting alumni donor gains in FY20 and FY21 are institutions that continued engagement even amidst the pandemic, even with a short pause in solicitations. Institutions that pulled back with donors, or fully cancelled giving days rather than refocusing or rescheduling, really suffered.

Get your RNL VSE comparison report, and see how you compare

CASE has ben making great strides in making VSE and AMAtlas data available to members. We’ve been creating a mini-report for institutions to quickly compare to a peer group to augment these efforts. Contact us today to get your VSE comparison report, and chat with an experienced RNL consultant about strategies to boost your metrics, accelerate your pipeline and grow participation. We really nerd out on this stuff, and when you have the data, you can take action.

Request Your Donor Comparison Report

Benchmark your fundraising results and identify alumni giving trends using data from the Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) survey.

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About the Author

Brian Gawor

Brian Gawor’s focus is research and strategy to help propel both alumni engagement and fundraising results of RNL clients. Brian has 20 years of higher education experience in student affairs, enrollment management, alumni engagement and...

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