Donations to universities and further education institutions up by almost 15 per cent

New report shows total pledges of £774m and suggests that university fundraising efforts are more sophisticated than before

Cambridge University
Cambridge University

Philanthropic donations pledged to universities and further education institutions rose by 14.4 per cent to £774m in the year to July 2012, according to a report published today.

Giving to Excellence: Generating Philanthropic Support for UK Higher Education 2011-12 is the latest annual report by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education Europe and the Ross Group, which runs a forum for directors involved in fundraising for higher education. The research was carried out by NatCen, the national centre for social research.

The report is based on a survey of 166 universities and 25 further education institutions, of which 135 universities and eight further education institutions responded.

It presents a mixed picture for universities. Donated income remained relatively static, rising from £542m in 2010/11 to £544m in 2011/12, and the median amount secured by an institution fell from about £1.05m to £552,000.

The number of alumni donors rose by 5 per cent, to about 169,000, while the number of non-alumni donors rose by 11 per cent, to about 44,000.

The report shows that the median cost of fundraising rose from 22p in the pound to 36p in the pound. However, it says there were large fluctuations in the median fundraising cost in previous years.

The report also says there were major differences between fundraising campaigns and identifies five different groups of institutions. At one end are the "elite fundraising campaigns" of Oxford and Cambridge, which accounted for about £350m – or 45 per cent - of all funds pledged. At the other are six "fragile fundraising campaigns", which raised less than they invested, and 89 "emerging fundraising campaigns", which raised a median amount of £200,000.

The total number of staff working in fundraising rose to 1,161, compared with 1,101 in the previous year.

TJ Rawlinson, chair of the Ross Group, said the figures showed encouraging growth.

"There’s a really pleasing growth trajectory," she said. "Donor numbers are rising, there’s growth everywhere in the sector and the group of universities below Oxford and Cambridge are growing faster than they are. That bodes really well for the sector."

Cathy Pharoah, professor of charity funding at Cass Business School, said the report showed charities should worry about competition from universities.

"The increasing sophistication and vigour of university fundraising presents a big challenge to the traditional voluntary sector," she said. "Universities have a warm catchment population of alumni. We know that people with higher-education qualifications are the strongest supporters of charity, so to some extent the two groups are fishing in the same pool."

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