In concurrence with a national trend, Yale’s alumni giving has plummeted in the past year, according to a recent survey by The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
The study said the recent economic downturn and unstable world affairs contributed to the drop in donations to many of the nation’s largest charities, including universities. Last year, Yale experienced a 26 percent decline in support from individuals, foundations and corporations, University Vice President for Development Charles Pagnam said. Emory fared worse than Yale, with a 29 percent decrease in giving. Harvard saw a 30 percent decrease in donations and Columbia’s alumni gifts decreased by 24 percent, the survey found.
“It’s the economy. It’s world politics,” Pagnam said. “There’s a connection between giving and the economy and the climate that’s in the world today.”
The drop in alumni giving is especially apparent when contrasted with the success of donation campaigns in the past two years, Pagnam said. The tercentennial celebrations in 2002 and the good economy of the late 1990s sparked alumni donations, but recently there have been fewer incentives to give, Pagnam said.
“I liked our placement a few years ago better than today,” Pagnam said.
While Yale President Richard Levin and the development office may affect alumni giving from year to year through campaign efforts, fluctuations in donations are primarily market-based, according a Yale economics professor who wished to remain anonymous. Except for cataclysmic university public relations mistakes, the main factor in determining the amount a donor gives to a college is the economy, the same professor added.
Yale plans to reach out to donors in an attempt to grow its giving, Pagnam said.
“We are trying to be more proactive, to go out and see more alumni,” he said. “[They] are extremely supportive.”
Pagnam said the decreased alumni giving does not have any noticeable impact on student life or the workings of the University. He cited Yale’s financial aid program and career service funds as examples of the University’s continued fiscal health.
Princeton University — which was not cited in the study as experiencing a significant drop in alumni giving — has also seen a decline in donations, according to university spokeswoman Patricia Allen.
“This was a difficult economic year for a lot of people and I think our alumni were sensitive to that,” Allen said.
Allen said that while donations were low, actual alumni involvement in giving remained high, indicating a successful campaign in terms of participation. Princeton reached out to alumni with aggressive communication campaigns, Allen said.
With alumni giving down and donations decreasing at universities around the nation, some university officials have considered increasing tuition to close the financial gap.
Such a raise in tuition would not be welcomed by students, Nicole Layne ’04 said.
“I think they should look for other options [first],” Layne said. “Increasing tuition more than is absolutely necessary should be the last resort.”
Fracine Cronin, assistant vice president for annual giving at Emory University, said an increasing tuition would not be the right course of action.
“The smartest thing to do would be to look for other funding opportunities and not increase tuition,” Cronin said.