Yale and Harvard might be the two richest universities in the world, but their younger sibling Stanford University raised almost as much as both of them combined during the last fiscal year.

Stanford raked in $911 million during the 2005-2006 fiscal year ending June 30, according to a report released last week by the Council for Aid to Education. The next two top fundraisers were Harvard and Yale, which raised $594 million and $433 million respectively. Last year, donations to colleges and universities nationwide increased by almost 10 percent, and half of that increase went to the top ten fundraisers, the report said.

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The last fiscal year was the best so far on record for the University, but it is not the most Yale has raised in a 12-month period. The News reported last month that Yale raised $600 million during the 2006 calendar year.

A third-place finish is very respectable for a school of Yale’s relatively small size, said University President Richard Levin, who is a self-described loyal Stanford alumnus and parent. Stanford has 50 percent more living alumni than Yale, while Harvard’s alumni body is more than double the size of Yale’s.

“We don’t usually come out that high because we are smaller,” he said. “In most years on a per-capita basis, we do better than Stanford and Harvard.”

Levin said he donates to both Stanford and Yale every year.

Stanford, which also topped the list the previous year, has done well because of its close ties to Silicon Valley and the technology boom of the last decade, Levin said. Stanford formally launched a $4.3 billion capital campaign in October. Yale launched the more modest $3 billion Yale Tomorrow campaign in September.

The increase in donations to colleges is a function of both the strong economy and the larger number of large-scale fundraising campaigns, Yale Vice President for Development Inge Reichenbach said. Within the context of an organized campaign, universities are able to more clearly articulate their specific needs to donors, she said. Six of the top 10 universities in terms of fundraising are currently in the midst of multi-billion dollar campaign efforts.

But Levin said it is unclear if it was the campaigns that caused the excess giving or the excess giving that prompted the organized campaigns.

“I’m not sure which is chicken and which is egg,” he said.

When Yale launched its campaign in September, the University had already raised $1.3 billion during a two-year “silent phase.” Reichenbach said that as the effort progresses, its emphasis will move away from courting the very wealthy donors who have so far donated the bulk of the gifts. Her office will expand its effort to approach many more less-wealthy alumni, she said.

“Our alumni who are considering making smaller gifts are every bit as enthusiastic and committed to Yale as the donors who can make the largest gifts,” she said in an e-mail. “The challenge is to be able to work with many more prospective donors and to make sure that they feel that Yale is as grateful for their gifts.”

Yale has raised about half of its $3 billion campaign goal so far.