Donation flood in US set to turn to drought

April 5, 2002

Despite the recession and the diversion of philanthropy to post-September 11 relief efforts, universities and colleges in the United States managed to raise a record amount in donations last year.

But university officials see a dark side to the figures: the end of a years-long bonanza of giving, especially because non-profit philanthropic foundations are shifting their focus to primary and secondary education, healthcare and environmental causes.

The value of university endowments dropped last year as more than a decade of high returns on investments were reversed.

Many private donors also lost money on their investments, leading university fundraising officials to predict that giving would decline.

The Council for Aid to Education reported that universities and colleges received more than $24 billion (£17 billion), an increase of about $1 billion over the year before and an all-time record.

But the euphoria was short-lived. The rate of increase, after all, turned out to be a sluggish 4 per cent after five consecutive years of double-digit growth.

Non-profit foundations have been shifting their attention away from higher education but because the foundations had more money than ever to give away last year, universities and colleges saw the actual number of dollars they received from foundation sources increase.

But that windfall, too, was, however, expected to become severely diminished as the foundations themselves suffered declines in investment income.

Giving to universities by alumni, corporations and other groups was flat, or even declined, last year, the council reported, a trend that also was projected to continue.

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