American colleges raise record $40.3 billion in 2015

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By Nick Selbe, Graphiq

2015 turned out to be a banner year for university fundraising. Across the country, colleges raised a record $40.3 billion dollars in donations, up 7.6 percent from 2014, according to the Council for Aid to Education and its Voluntary Support of Education survey. The total amount raised is the highest ever since the CAE first sent out its survey in 1957.

The top 20 fundraising universities more than carried their weight, accounting for 28.7 percent of the 2015 total. These heavy hitters combined to raise nearly $11.6 billion, with Stanford University and Harvard University each topping the $1 billion mark on their own. StartClass visualizations provide a further breakdown of the top fundraisers.

Donations to some of higher education's biggest name-brand universities have reached historic heights. This should not come as a surprise. Colleges have set lofty fundraising goals in recent years and have launched extensive campaigns to reach their numbers. In March 2014, Northwestern announced its $3.75 billion fundraising initiative known as "We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern." The announcement came with help from two of the school's most well-known alumni, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers.

Other schools have reached even higher in their fundraising goals. USC president C.L. Max Nikias aims to raise $6 billion by 2018, and Harvard launched a $6.5 billion campaign in 2013. At their current pace, these schools should hit their goals sooner rather than later.

How have these schools managed to set new standards for fundraising, you ask?

Over half of all donations come from foundations and alumni, with the rest made up of non-alumni individuals, corporations and other organizations. Alumni donations are no doubt crucial to any school's fundraising efforts, but the breakdown shows how important contributions from non-alumni can be. Individuals donated $8 billion dollars to universities they didn't even attend, accounting for 20 percent of all donations.

National research universities have become more aggressive than ever in securing donations. Recent alumni often receive phone calls within weeks of graduating asking to donate to their alma mater. With persistence like that, it's safe to assume the 2015 record for fundraising won't last long. The survey concludes by stating, "It is likely that charitable support of U.S. colleges and universities will increase in 2016, albeit modestly."

Given that 2015 raised over $40 billion, a modest increase would be a welcomed sight by university presidents nationwide.

Learn More About Colleges at StartClass

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