Donations decline by 10 percent

Just as University officials begin to strategize for raising what would presumably amount to hundreds of millions of alumni dollars to help pay for two new residential colleges, a report released Wednesday said Yale failed to keep pace with many of its peers in terms of fundraising last year.

Yale fell from third to eighth place in dollars raised by universities in fiscal 2007 compared to 2006, according to a national survey by the Council for Aid to Education, although University President Richard Levin — and even the survey’s director — cautioned against drawing too many conclusions from year-to-year variation in the rankings. Stanford University topped the list, netting $832 million last year, more than double what Yale raised.

Nationwide, charitable contributions to colleges increased 6.3 percent, hitting a record $29.75 billion. But the $391 million Yale raised was almost 10 percent less than the amount the University received in donations the previous year, according to the survey.

That may seem to be a bad sign for Development Office officials hoping to raise millions for the new colleges in coming years, especially as the struggling economy threatens to tamp down donations. But survey director Ann Kaplan said, since they are more a function of the timing of gifts than declining alumni support, it is important to interpret the results in proper context.

“These numbers are not a very accurate gauge of how we are doing,” Levin wrote in an e-mail Wednesday.

The University is in the midst of its Yale Tomorrow capital campaign, which was publicly launched in September 2006 and aims to raise $3 billion by mid-2011. As of Jan. 31, the campaign had already netted $2.045 billion toward that goal, putting it a full year ahead of schedule in its fundraising, Vice President for Development Inge Reichenbach said Wednesday.

“So, we are not concerned,” Levin said. “We are well ahead of the projections for the campaign.”

Most large gifts are paid over the course of five years, Levin added, so a more telling figure is the amount in new gifts and pledges received in a year — counted as “fundraising activity” — rather than the dollar figure actually paid to Yale. Over the last three years, the University has exceeded $500 million annually in fundraising activity, “with neither an upward or downward trend,” Levin said.

The University is on track to exceed $500 million in activity this year, too, he added.

This projection is why Yale officials warned against reading too much into the survey. Over the last three years, Yale’s ranking has swung from 11th to third to eighth, even as the fundraising activity cited by Levin has remained stable.

Kaplan agreed with the University officials’ resistance toward focusing on the ranks.

“If you went from third to 30th, then there’s something going on there,” she said.

More interesting, perhaps, is what the survey will look like next year. With the sagging economy, universities might seem likely to struggle in continuing to raise record-breaking amounts of money, as was the case this year.

One effect of the economic slowdown, Kaplan said, is that benefactors who plan to donate stock at the end of this fiscal year could decide to postpone their donations until future years when the market rebounds — or, if they do donate now, the stock they give could be worth less than initially anticipated.

Still, she predicted that over the course of fiscal 2008, universities will post an overall increase in fundraising — though probably at a rate less than the 6.3 percent enjoyed last year.

Rae Goldsmith, a vice president at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education in Washington, D.C., agreed with Kaplan’s prediction of smaller but positive growth.

“Post-9/11, when we saw an economic downturn, we did see giving stabilize or even drop a little bit,” Goldsmith said. “So there is a cyclical nature to how these numbers relate to what’s going on economically. Typically, a small recession is not going to have a significant impact, but a major recession could.”

Reichenbach remained undeterred. “So far, we have not seen a slowdown in giving,” she said.

In this fiscal year, the S&P 500 has plummeted 9.5 percent. But Yale’s fundraising has actually soared, she said; the $344 million raised this fiscal year through January was a nearly 14 percent improvement over the $303 million raised at the same point last year.

Regardless of what the economy has in store for Yale and other universities, in 2007, America’s wealthiest universities hardly struggled to line their gilded coffers with new donations.

Overall, American universities raised more money than ever before. And the $7.7 billion raised by the 20 most prolific institutions last year accounted for a quarter of all contributions to universities last year, despite the fact the 20 schools made up only 2 percent of respondents to the survey.

That may be good news for the universities, but it does not necessarily come at a convenient time. In recent months, top universities like Yale, Harvard and Stanford have been assailed by critics, including some in Congress, for allegedly hoarding their riches while families struggle to pay tuition.

Stanford’s placement at the top of the rankings was a repeat performance as the university, which launched an ambitious new financial aid initiative Wednesday, has finished first in the survey for the past three years. Stanford’s relative success, Reichenbach said, comes from a number of factors, among them their investment in fundraising in recent years; their large alumni base; and their close ties with Silicon Valley, which has produced much wealth in the last decade.

Harvard, at $614 million, finished second in this year’s survey, followed by the University of Southern California at third with $470 million. Rounding out the top 10 were Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, Cornell University, the University of Pennsylvania, Yale, Duke University and the University of California, Los Angeles.

The Yale Corporation will vote Friday to authorize Levin to direct the Development Office in preparing a strategy for raising funds to underwrite the construction of two new residential colleges, which Levin endorsed Monday. Preliminary projections placed the cost of those two colleges at no less than $600 million.


  • An alum

    This is certainly no surprise. Yale spent 300 years building an unsurpassed academic reputation. Now, in the short span of a couple of generations, it has squandered all that hard work. It is now considered the home of the Ivy League's loony left, with things like "Sex Week" where porno films are screened and sex toys are handed out. Very, very sad.

  • PC Alum

    Excellent. I haven't donated to Yale in years and will not do so for precisely the reasons noted in comment #1. This University grows more embarrassing every year - from institutional support for illegal immigrants to "Sex Week" to admitting a Taliban scumbag to bi-weekly protests against conjured oppression. Yale has devolved into little more than a high-priced liberal echo chamber that currently produces students who know far more about post-colonial queer theory than the Western canon (never mind basic American history). Truly a sorry state of affairs - and one I choose not to fund.

  • Not a crazy alum

    At #1:

    How does any of that relate to the article? Yale was 8th… If you're 8th in the country, then you haven't been squandering anything. I mean, it sounds like you've decided to condemn Yale regardless of what any facts are. If Yale had finished first, you would come to the same conclusion precisely because your conclusions aren't based in facts. The first two comments are completely irrelevant to the article.

    Maybe you're right, Yale has squandered its hard work if alums like you can't find a coherent argument with two hands and a flashlight. There are plenty of reasons to criticize Yale, but what reflects badly on Yale is when its alums don't show that they are smart enough to make a valid criticism.

  • Anonymous

    Sadly, I must agree with 1 & 2 above. Since the administration appears to have completely gone off the rails, it is really up to the students to show maturity and do something about it. Stand up for what is right. Stand up for common sense. Don't allow yourself to be intimidated or shouted down. Trust me, one day you will be mature adults with children, grandchildren and a successful career. You will dread the thought of your grandchildren or colleagues discovering your participation in the raunchy aspects of "Sex Week." Life in the real world is very different. You can continue to watch Yale's downward spiral, or you can make a stand. Trust me, you do not want to graduate and learn that your alma mater is the butt of every academic joke. You do not want Yale to be cited as an example every time the conversation turns to what is wrong college today.

  • Anonymous

    As an undergraduate, I'm definitely not surprised. Yale mishandles their money. Taliban admissions, making plans for expansion without student consultation, sex week (which is really just a week to glorify pornography instead of actual discourse on sex), and sexist rappers on campus while there are underfunded clubs. My money's going to go somewhere else besides Yale!

  • Anonymous

    To #1 and #2 - Perhaps you are simply cheap.

  • heartydn
  • Recent Alum

    I generally agree with the sentiments of #1, #2 and #5, but we should not forget that Yale still does a lot of good (the Grand Strategy program, Directed Studies come to mind). Many student organizations are also more than respectable, including the YDN, singing groups, athletic teams, fraternities and some of the YPU parties. Perhaps alumni should try to pool their resources and offer to donate only to the non-politicized components of Yale to ensure that our money is not mishandled.

  • Anonymous

    Blame the admissions office. They're the ones that are letting all the causeheads in.
    Dare I say that this place is so PC is that it prevents honest intellectual debate and discussion

  • Anonymous

    man, these comments are depressing. yale sure does seem to get the majority of the flak from today's media though, out of all the ivies, and i have to admit i can kind of see why that's happening…

    also, sex week is/was a total joke. i'm a freshman here, and all i can say is i hope i never once have to hear of that BS again over the next 3 and a half years.

  • Anonymous

    Dear prudish alums:

    There is nothing stopping you from earmarking a donation for, say, the Directed Studies program (which prizes the Western canon and intellectual circle-jerking above all else). It's not like your endowment has to go straight to Ron Jeremy.

  • Anonymous

    Really? This had to turn into a prudish referendum on Sex Week?

    There are plenty of valid reasons not to donate to Yale -- the most glaring, of course, being that they just sit on so much of the money, watching it build on itself, that the federal government is considering legislation that would force them to spend more. Angry "how dare you kids question the establishment or enjoy sex" rhetoric is just embarrassing.

  • Anonymous

    Re: #3

    How is alumni dissatisfaction with the current state of the University "completely irrelevant" to an article about a dramatic reduction in alumni donations? Your failure to grasp this basic point makes your flailing ad hominem attacks all the more enjoyable. Cheers.

  • Respectable?

    #7, I am a member of more than one of your "respectable" organizations. Thanks. Given your comments, though, and those of #1,2, and #5, I'd prefer you stop complementing us before you embarrass us any further, and create harmful divides among student groups on campus.

    Conservative politics are fine, but the nauseating nostalgia being expressed here for white, male orthodoxy is "conservatism" at its worst. As a current student with younger siblings, let me assure you that Yale is in no danger of becoming obsolete.

  • Anonymous

    I'll just give money to my department, which is seriously underappreciated in my opinion, specifically instead of Yale in general…

  • Anonymous

    Thank God Yale does not depend on the questionable generosity of some alumni to run itself these days. Yale's economic freedom means freedom to explore the frontiers of knowledge in ways that are not beholden to backward interests. Alumni who refuse to give money to Yale have all the right reasons to do so; it's their money after all. Sadly, alumni like these want an image of Yale that they only can recognize—a Yale in and of the past. Indeed, they fail to realize that Yale belongs to the future as much as to the past. When they complain that Yale is no longer recognizable to them, they in fact are saying that Yale is no longer the same. One should hold this view with skepticism. The last all-white undergraduate class at Yale became history only in 1954. In 1969, Yale threw it gates open to women, that is, mostly white women. Yale has seen demographic changes thereafter. Today, one can find an Asian American cultural center as well as a center for the study of globalization on campus. As Cole Porter's song goes, times have changed. If alumni refuse to donate because they cannot comprehend the new times, which for them will always pale in comparison to their good old times, Yale will be better off. That means Yale, now bolder and freer, can move forward to explore the ends of knowledge. Alumni like those above can live in the past.

  • Johnny P

    All alumni in general really disgruntled with Yale as do we just have a few really disgruntled ones writing in on this? Seriously, what's the big deal about sex week? As for the supposed 'liberal' politics on campus, yes, liberals exist, as does everything else. I don't see what the problem is.

  • Anonymous

    Re: #12

    The reason it's "completely irrelevant" to a "drastic decline" is because the claim that there is a "drastic decline" is completely unfounded, or did you read the article? Even this 10% swing seems like it's still within the normal year-to-year variance.

    Besides, everyone interviewed in the article, including the group that did the survey, said you can't draw many conclusions from this data. Anyone who would read this article and conclude that there has been a "drastic decline" is simply not a good reader.

  • Anonymous

    Did any of you even read the article?! Both President Levin and the survey's director Ann Kaplan made it abundantly clear that COMMITMENTS to donations haven't changed a bit in the past few years despite the troubled economy. Their arguments as to why commitments are the best indicator of alumni donation activity are perfectly cogent, and I haven't seen one expert rebut them. The only donations measure that is down is the actual timing of the cash flow which will fluctuate with the timing of fundraising initiatives. Yale's fundraising health is as remarkable as ever because Yale is (and is still widely recognized as) a preeminent world-class university.

    It's kind of sweet how #1, #2, #4 and so on so elegantly twist the facts to fit their predetermined (and rather ridiculous) conclusions. Yale is an extremely well-respected institution experiencing record applications - gaining admission is also now harder than it was for #1 or #2…

    To prove my point, many posters lament the "admission" of a Taliban representative in their Yale criticisms. If these posters weren't trying to manipulate the facts for their own agenda, they would have also pointed out that Rahmatullah Hashemi was only allowed to STUDY at Yale in a non-degree program - he was denied admission to earn his degree. Educating the world in the virtues of reason and skepticism is a laudable mission. Notably, Mr. Hashemi came to praise Yale and its educational philosophy, noting that "everything here is based on reason." Mr. Hashemi went on to tell the NY Times Magazine, "I regret when people think of the Taliban and then think of me — that feeling people have after they know I was affiliated with them is painful to me." Mr. Hashemi was also active in student organizations where Muslim and Jewish groups communicated and connected peacefully. Does anyone seriously think that Yale made a mistake or betrayed some ethical principle in allowing him to come here (the bar is not set very high for the non-degree program) after being cleared by our federal security services?

    The next time they post on an article, I suggest that the posters I have criticized read it first - not just its headline.

  • alum

    Well said #19.

  • Irony

    What is really ironic is that despite how far to the radical left Yale has gone (with Sex Week, Taliban admissions, politicized programs like Gender Studies and Gay Studies, the Women's Center, 95% of faculty voting Democrat, protests against conservative speakers, sex education, Skull & Bones member burning an American flag, no ROTC on campus, MLK day off, military unwelcome at the law school, law school suing John Yoo, etc.), it is almost always the conservative alumni who donate to Yale. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that 80% of donations come from Republicans. I think that it is time for alumni to demand more control over what Yale does with their money. Have the conservatives donating to Directed Studies and the liberals donating to ERM and you would see which program ends up with the most.

  • Guns Week at Yale (GWAY)

    I was somewhat relieved to learn that SWAY was externally funded but extremely disappointed that the university did nothing to distance itself from it. It tarnished the Yale "brand" and the university could have asked that Yale be removed from the title. I guarantee they would have if it had been Guns Week at Yale.

  • Bulldog Fan

    Is it true that Levin declined a $1 million gift for a stadium jumbotron?

    Its said he found instant replay distasteful because it taunts successes and failures - self-esteem PC crxp.

    Wasn't sex week on the proverbial jumbtron?