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Economic crisis hasn't hit college donations

BY REBECCA MORIN | FEBRUARY 26, 2013 5:00 AM

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With the economic crisis diminishing, a sense of financial security is being restored across the nation — and universities and colleges are experiencing it firsthand.

On Feb. 20, the Council for Aid to Education released a study that found a 2.3 percent increase in charitable contributions to colleges and universities in 2012.

This year, more than 1,000 institutions participated in the survey. However, the results do not just represent those particular institutes, they represent all institutions, said Ann Kaplan, the director for Voluntary Support of Education Survey for the Council for Aid to Education.

“I think it’s covered in the press every year, and it is important to those who participate in the survey,” said Kimberly Kane, program associate with Council for Aid to Education. “With the recession, people are anxious to see the results.”

While a few State Board of Regents universities saw a decrease in donations in the last year, officials say they are implementing new strategies to improve fundraising efforts.

The University of Iowa and the UI Foundation received $203.4 million from more than 76,000 donors in fiscal 2012, said Dan Sandersfeld, the director of creative services for the UI Foundation.

Although the contributions to the UI were not as high as in fiscal 2011 — which marked the second-best year with $213.9 million raised — UI Foundation officials are finding new ways to improve fundraising efforts.

“In May, the UI Foundation will embark upon a multiyear, comprehensive campaign to raise additional funds in support of students, faculty, programs, and facilities at the UI,” Sandersfeld said. “The three strategic areas of focus for the campaign are educating our students, ensuring a healthier and more sustainable world, and enriching commerce, culture, and communities.”

Because of the number of baby boomers retiring, the donations and charitable contributions could increase in general.

“As people get older, they get more secure,” said Patrick Barron, an adjunct lecturer in economics at the UI. “Their houses are paid for, their cars are paid for, and so they might be more inclined to give to charity.”

This year’s results were no different from previous year’s results, Kaplan said.

“They have grown almost every year, just like when the economy goes up, contributions go up as well,” she said.

The UI was not the only university to experience a decrease in contributions. The University of Northern Iowa also saw a decline in donations.

“Fundraising results for last year exceeded $22 million,” UNI Foundation President Bill Calhoun said. “Although this was slightly less than the previous year, it still represented the third-largest fundraising total in UNI’s history.”

However, with the recent recession, universities and nonprofit organizations are aware of the fluctuation they will receive in charitable contributions. 

“Gift totals to nonprofit organizations do fluctuate based on a number of factors, including the economy and market performance,” Sandersfeld said.

Universities and colleges continue to stay strong in their hope regardless of the economic crisis.

“Our alumni and friends care deeply about creating opportunities for UNI students,” Calhoun said. “Because of this, we anticipate continued growth in private support in the years ahead.”


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