Stanford giving drops in 2009, still tops list of universities

Oct. 29, 2010, 3:03 a.m.

Stanford suffered an 18.5 percent drop in private fundraising totals in fiscal year 2009 but still raised more money than any other college or university, according to a survey released on Oct. 17 by The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The Philanthropy 400 survey, which ranks organizations that raise the most money from private sources, reported that Stanford collected $640 million for the fiscal year that ended on Aug. 31, 2009. At No. 14, Stanford is the highest-ranked university on the list, with Harvard coming in at No. 16 with a total of $601 million.

Private giving to top charities—giving from individuals, foundations and businesses—dropped 11 percent in 2009, according to the report. Giving to colleges dropped 11.9 percent, according to the results of the Voluntary Support of Education Survey released earlier this year.

(Samantha McGirr/The Stanford Daily) Thomy Luppa and Jean Chow Cripps, '04, with the Office of Development record alumni gifts for The Stanford Fund during Alumni Weekend.

Rebecca Smith Vogel, senior director of development and speaking on behalf of the Office of Development, cited the current economic recession as one factor in the drop, but pointed to another factor: the five-year life cycle of The Stanford Challenge. The university-wide campaign aims at raising funds for initiatives in such areas as human health, the environment and undergraduate and graduate education.

“FY 09 fell in the middle of our five-year campaign,” Vogel wrote in an e-mail to The Daily. “There is often a reduction in the size and number of gifts committed at this stage of a typical campaign. When this happens, it usually is because many donors who are closest to the institution have made early commitments in the campaign cycle while others are still being engaged in the major themes and needs of the campaign.”

According to the Office of Development, gifts made in 2009 included $247.1 million for research purposes, $55.7 million for student aid, $29.4 million for professorships and other faculty support and $85.3 million for on-campus construction.

In 2009, donors gave a total of $18.4 million to The Stanford Fund (TSF), a source of discretionary funding that the president allocates where resources are most needed. Last year, 82 percent went to need-based financial aid, 11 percent to academic programs and 7 percent to student life. Vogel said TSF funds have enabled the University to continue offering extensive financial aid packages during the recession.

“For the past two years, a significant portion of The Stanford Fund has been allocated for need-based undergraduate financial aid,” she said. “This has been absolutely critical to Stanford’s ability to meet the increased demand for financial aid at the same time that the university’s endowment saw a steep decrease.”

Vogel remains optimistic about the future of Stanford fundraising, citing an increase in giving from non-alumni parent donors and increased involvement from young alumni as two promising trends. The percentage drop in giving in 2009, she said, was more likely a consequence of widespread financial woes than an indicator of waning support for the University.

“It’s hard to say with any certainty, but it’s probably safe to view the level of the drop we saw in 2009 as an anomaly that was in large part the result of the extraordinary economic circumstances,” she said. “Indeed, although our fiscal year 10 numbers are not yet finalized, we are encouraged by the number of donors who made gifts in the fiscal year just ended.”

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