Fundraising: large donations ‘mask’ downward trends in UK

New report on alumni giving and other fundraising warns over declining donor numbers

四月 29, 2022
Donation money jar
Source: iStock

Large donations to universities in the UK and Ireland may be masking “worrying trends” for smaller gifts and a declining number of donors, according to the latest annual survey on charitable giving in the sector.

The Case-Ross report on fundraising activities shows that despite the pandemic, the 95 institutions surveyed secured £1.14 billion in “new funds” – including donation pledges – last year, with the average per university rising 5 per cent.

However, almost £300 million of this was secured by two “elite” institutions – likely to be the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, which both took part in the survey – and included a single pledge of £61 million.

Some other institution clusters analysed by the report – six “established” institutions and 30 institutions described in terms of fundraising as “developing” – saw a fall in new funds, while average donor numbers across all institutions fell by almost a fifth.

Other figures in the report – produced by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (Case) – show that total cash income received in 2020-21, which excludes pledges for future years, was £1.02 billion, a fall of 3 per cent from the year before.

In a foreword, the report says that “very large gifts have a disproportionate impact on the sector’s success” and that “indeed this year, they may mask some worrying trends in mid- and lower-level giving”.

A “reliance on large gifts” was also increasing and was “particularly notable” for the cluster of six “established” institutions, which are not named in the report.

It adds that the headline figures gathered by the survey – which as well as an increase in new funds also included an increase in average spending on fundraising and alumni relations – appear to show that work building “pipelines” of donors in preceding years has “paid off”.

But long-term indicators suggested that growth in fundraising had stalled since 2015-16 and there were signs this could be “further eroded in the coming years”.

“Our relationships with our top donors remain strong. Less positive, is the continued gentle decline in donor numbers: it could be argued that our wins in 2020-2021 – particularly gifts large enough to have an impact on the sector’s figures – are the fruits of relationships built over many previous years,” the report says.

“As we look towards the future, global slowdowns or recessions, and high inflation, are likely, which may impact donor behaviour. Universities will surely be pinched – and we know that can lead to stalled or removed investment into fundraising and alumni relations functions. Both these factors could further affect pipelines.”



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