University’s gifts dropped more than peers’

Though Yale saw the greatest decline in donations last year out of the nation’s top 20 fundraising universities, administrators said the numbers are no cause for alarm.

Yale is in the fourth year of a five-year capital campaign, the stage when many donations often plateau, they said. In addition, the rankings — from a survey released by an educational nonprofit — only count cash received and not money pledged, which Vice President for Development Inge Reichenbach said skews the numbers.

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According to the Council for Aid to Education survey, gifts to colleges and universities nationwide dropped 11.9 percent on average last year — the steepest fall ever recorded — as alumni and other donors hurt by the recession stopped writing checks as frequently as they normally do, the survey director said Tuesday. Among the top 20 institutions, Yale ranked ninth in total donations with $358.2 million raised last year, while Stanford, Harvard and Cornell universities took the top three spots. Yet Yale administrators said the trend will not ultimately hurt the University.

“I’m not particularly concerned about this long term,” University President Richard Levin said Monday. “We have lots of good conversations with donors in the pipeline.”

Donations last year and this year have suffered as donors burned out and lost some of the initial enthusiasm they may have had for the campaign, Reichenbach said. In a normal economy, gifts usually rise in the fifth year — in Yale’s case, next year — as donors rush to be included in the campaign, she added.

But she acknowledged that last year was unusually difficult for development and that next year’s economy may not be normal.

Reichenbach said Yale has garnered $2.9 billion so far in the five-year Yale Tomorrow capital campaign. The cash the University received from donors this month has so far outpaced what Yale received in February 2009, she added.

“If February’s an indication of the next year, we’ll be very happy,” she said.

Though Levin said Yale would likely see a rebound in gifts only if a few major donations administrators hope to receive come through, the Council for Aid to Education’s Ann Kaplan, who directed the survey of 1,027 institutions, said donors are likely to be more generous this year as the stock market recovers. Many donations are made in stock, so more donors should be able to dip into their portfolios this year, she said.

Stanford and Harvard — raising $640.1 million and $601.6 million respectively — topped the rankings for the fourth year in a row despite collecting less than in previous years. In 2008, Stanford raised $785 million and Harvard garnered $650.6 million, posting declines of 18.5 and 7.5 percent, respectively.

But Cornell emerged the real winner, posting the highest percent gains among the top 20. With $446.8 million in donations last year, the university brought in 9.1 percent more than it did in 2008 — thanks in part to a $170 million gift from alumnus and former Citigroup CEO Sanford Weill, Cornell spokesman Simeon Moss said. Weill’s gift helped to build Cornell’s Weill Medical College branch in New York City.

The Council for Aid to Education survey only counts the cash a university has collected through fundraising in any given year, meaning Yale’s ranking does not reflect any pledges the University received in the 2009 fiscal year, Reichenbach said.

“That skews it significantly,” she said. “It’s always nice to get the cash, but what people are willing to give — that’s a better indicator.”

At Yale, donors have five years to fulfill a pledge. But at Cornell, Weill paid the entirety of his 2007 pledge last year, giving the school a major boost, she added.

Both Stanford and Cornell credit dedicated alumni for their successes.

“It is a testament to … the generosity of the university’s donors,” Stanford development spokeswoman Rebecca Smith Vogel said, adding that Stanford does not expect donations to return to a normal level just yet. Stanford received a $100 million gift from a group of donors to establish a new sustainable energy research institute last year, she said.

Moss, too, said loyal alumni helped Cornell to buck the trend of plunging donations.

Donations to Stanford, Harvard and Cornell may have outstripped Yale’s partly because they have larger alumni bases than Yale, with its smaller student body, Kaplan said.

Still, Yale isn’t alone.

“It’s the biggest decline we’ve ever seen, but also the simplest to explain,” Kaplan said. “Every source of income was hit. It’s the economy.”

Donations will not recover to pre-recession levels for a few years, she said, not only because the economy is recovering slowly, but also because universities saw a record-high level of donations in 2008, after several years of growth.

Yale raised $486.6 million in 2008, earning it the fourth spot in the council’s survey that year.


  • alum

    Wonder why? Porn star invited to Master’s Tea…

  • another alum

    “The gay Ivy” turns off a lot of alums. Not good, not right, but true.

    That new admissions video? “I Couldn’t Choose My Sexuality, So That’s Why I Chose Yale.”

  • alumtoo

    Yeah, it’s got to be the porn star visit. Definitely. Either that or Yale’s War on Christmas.

    Anything that fits into my preconcieved narrative of Evil Liberal Oppression.

  • y10

    why is it bad that a porn star came to give a master’s tea?

  • Alumnus

    To #3

    Yes: that is EXACTLY why I have scaled back my gifting, from tens of thousands of dollars in the 1990s to zero today.

  • woof

    Why is every article on admissions/ donations an occasion for gaybashing? Are you people really so disloyal to your alma mater that you would let one issue of the alumni magazine (usually boring as hell, now only slightly less so) turn you against it? News flash: Yale is no longer all white, straight, and protestant, and we non-WASPs have a few stories to tell. If you’re uncomfortable with this, put your money where your mouth is and send it to Liberty U.

  • yale 10

    Yeah… This is why Yale doesn’t need my $5.

  • Another Alumnus

    Not pretending to have done my own study of the issue, nor am I inclined simply to assume that my reasons for not giving are the same as others’, but I’ve also stopped donating in response to the excesses of a far left echo chamber. Never gave anything close to tens of thousands of dollars, but I did give. The Yale Taliban was probably my tipping point. The esteem with which the University treats Islamic terrorists, anti-American scholars, antisocial misfits, LBTGQRSTVs, convicted criminals, porn stars, etc, etc is particularly vexing in light of the fact that those who dare speak a contrary view are pilloried or cast out entirely. Perverse and sad. Despite caring about this University and having fond memories of my time there (within the last decade or so), I choose not to support it. I am not alone.

  • Recent Alum

    Exactly, #1, #2 and #8: thank you!! I still donate a small amount each year, but more reluctantly each time.

  • FailBoat

    As a current student here who has had a wonderful four years, I will not be giving money to Yale upon leaving. Too much of it is spent on promoting a social agenda that I will tolerate as a student but not endorse as an alum.

  • @ #8

    By all means, your money is yours to do with as you like, but the ‘esteem’ with which the university treats … who now? Islamic terrorists? If we had a terrorist here, I think the US Justice or State departments would be after them. Anti-American scholars? Funny thing is, lots of people think ‘real’ Americans only think ______ (fill in the blank according to your political leaning). Yale allows for open discourse – that whole ‘freedom’ thing some of us have fought for. Antisocial misfits? Good god, man, what is this, highschool? We pick on anyone not like us?

    Yale is a place of learning, and as such, it’s pretty open so that the people here are exposed to whatever they wish. It isn’t perfect, of course, and there are plenty of good reasons why one might not wish to donate to the university – their track record for poor spending habits, for example – but saying you don’t wish to donate because they have had people here who don’t fit into your tiny and unforgiving notion of what constitutes sound character is like not donating blood to the Red Cross because they might help gays, antisocial misfits, anti-American scholars, etc.

    Their purpose is to help save lives, not to adhere to your political leanings. Similarly, the university’s purpose is to provide an opportunity to learn, not to adhere to your political leanings.

    Our politics are so divisive at the moment that sometimes, in order to make progress, one needs to look beyond them. You can be a far left anti-war activist and still send support packages to the troops, and you can be a far right ultraconservative and still support one of the world’s best institutes for higher education.

  • FailBoat

    Yale does have the academic freedom to do whatever it wants. But as alums, we have the freedom to do whatever we want as well. If Yale exercises its freedom in a way not to our liking, we express our displeasure by not donating.

  • alum 2

    All of above and more.

    As a scientist, my tipping point was how Yale Corporation treated the 2002 Nobel Laureate (Chemistry) who taught forty years and won the prize for Yale. Yale lawyers accused him of stealing his own idea and won. This incredible injustice was well known in science field.

  • PC ’10

    But, by this logic, Stanford and Harvard must be bastions of conservatism. I can’t imagine they don’t have similar records of progressiveness on social issues. And if you are so concerned about Yale’s leftist bent, why don’t you direct your donations to a special fund used to bring conservative thinkers to campus for Master’s Teas. And how could a Yale alumnus be so blind as to read into one Master’s Tea so much?? We’ve had all sorts of people whose politics or actions have been appalling to different parts of campus, but that’s the point of a Master’s Tea: to stimulate discussion. With a Yale degree, you surely must be smart enough to realize that inviting someone to speak and engage in dialog is far from an endorsement of everything they stand for.

  • Alumnus

    Thank you #8: you captured the fuller reasons better than I.

    To #11: Yale is most decidedly NOT open so that people are exposed to whatever they wish. Yale is most decidedly skewed (much more so than other schools I have attended) to “ideas” of the far to extreme Left. So be it, but not with my donations.

  • @ UltraUltraConservativeAlums

    It’s possible that a certain John C. Calhoun wouldn’t donate money to a school that celebrates MLK Jr. and believes slavery and segregation to be morally reprehensible. So be it.

    By all means, please stop donating — whether it be $5 or $5 million — Yale will do just fine without your hate money. The rest of us non-homophobic Yalies (liberal and conservative alike) really don’t want your money influencing the school’s policies.

    p.s. You’re all ainfully ignorant and naive, wrapped up in your own bizzare echo chamber, if you think there aren’t vocal conservatives and religious students (yes, even Christians!) on campus. This campus is more vibrant and interesting than ever, full of diverse opinions and beliefs. It’s too bad your notion of America (and Yale) is still stuck in the antebellum period.

  • Tanner

    Has anyone studied the amount of money given by those alumni who have gone through Yale on Grants, Scholarships and other tuition deductions. I do hope they are “giving back” from the money they saved on Student Loan payments. Yale is calling send hard cash prestige isn’t paying the bills.

  • Zzzzz

    @#16, “UltraUltraConservative”

    Youngster, you’ll find, some day, that positions state by alumni are not only far from “ultraultra” conservative, but have crept magically closer to your own.

    Many posting here went to lengths to point out that it is not, as you seem to believe, “homophobic” and “painfully ignorant” alumni, but rather alumni that reject that Yale has shifted markedly further left than its already lefty peers.

    Please do not try to pretend that Conservatives have a voice on campus. Try finding a Conservative professor, or try voicing a Conservative opinion in your next Women’s Studies section. Good luck!

  • (Straight) Princeton Alumnus

    Are Yale alumni really so intimidated by sexuality that they will not support their own undergraduate institution? Just asking….

  • appreciation

    As a financially impotent Yale alum I am truly appreciative upon hearing anything related to the deliberate decisions of non-lefties to withhold donations on the basis of a far-left “skew” of ideas. The way I see it, that’s all it is at Yale, just talk, resulting in continued exploitation of human conditions that could actually be improved by legitimate applications of human knowledge promulgated by the “university”. Please guys, just keep your financial status as financial status–no need to invoke scholarly pretensions on behalf of a fantasy “left” you have no intention of actually serving in your lifetime. Furthermore, let me heartily approve of any rightist witholding of donations as an act in your honor.

  • Conserva…what?

    I’m always amused at how ‘lefties’ and ‘ultraconservatives’ are portrayed. Most of the people I know don’t give one half-penny about what someone else does in the privacy of their own bedroom. Which makes us ‘lefties’. But we also support the military (and some have served), want a balanced budget, and wish government were smaller. (Ooh, now we’re conservatives!). But wait, we want universal health care – damn, we’re lefties again! This is getting too confusing.

    One thing is simple, though – if you’re freaked out by people talking about sex in ways that goes beyond your once-a-month five-minute missionary-position extravaganza, you’re not a ‘conservative’, you’re a total nincompoop.

  • Zzzzz

    Couple addenda:

    No one I know is “freaked out” by talking about sex; it’s just that many view Yale as a (very expensive) forum that increasingly prefers “bull sessions”-for-credit to discussing Plato, Descartes, Rousseau, Kant et al.

    Also, to #20: please know that I still *give* “tens of thousands” (actually, that number has increased over time), just not to Yale.

  • saybrook997

    Before you revolt and abandon Yale, Yale is not for one year, one Sex Week or even one generation. It was made for 309 years so far. All that is revolting to you now, this too shall pass.

    Yale students endure the misfortune that faculty tenure and course corriculum are decided mostly by the more or most liberal of the 1960’s and 1970’s baby boomer-Vietnam war protesters or evaders, old-style feminists, and tradition rebels. They have reached their power years as tenured profs., deans, masters, and administrators, and they will be there for about 10 years.

    Yale’s most renown profs. are its post-WWII generation, who are gone or emeritus. Scully, Morgan, Bloom, May, Tobin, et al.–we still read and study their work. They were scholars whose pay and benefits were a small fraction of current tenure (and administrators)–so now the budget crisis to pay the “I got mine” profs. and adm. today.

    If you don’t like today, do what you can to change it, tolerate it, and wait 10 years. Yale was here, I know, a hundred years before I walked the campus or the earth, and it will be here 10 years from now. Patience, go forward, don’t abandon the next generation. Peace, it’s a new millennium already.