Giving to Education Trends

A Synopsis from Giving USA and the 2012 Voluntary Support of Education Survey 

Giving USA 2013 reflects the results of the Council on Aid to Education’s (CAE’s) 2012 Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) survey. Like the economy, giving has continued to recover from the recession at a slow but steady pace.

Key findings include:

  • According to the CAE VSE survey, total FY2012 giving to education was $31 billion, an increase of 2.3 percent from the previous fiscal year. This is just short of the historic high of $31.6 billion in FY2008 before the economic collapse.

  • Giving USA 2013 found that, in calendar year 2012, educational organizations received $41.33 billion in total support, a 7 percent increase from 2011 and 13 percent of total philanthropy in 2012. Education now represents the second largest philanthropic sector, on par with human services and behind religion.

  • Higher education endowment growth leveled off following the big increase of 16.7 percent in FY2011, remaining essentially unchanged in FY2012. 

Alumni Giving

Traditionally, alumni giving has provided the largest share of education support; however, alumni participation declined in FY2012 for the tenth straight year, with only 9.2 percent of alumni giving nationwide compared to13.2 percent in FY2002. Historic levels of student debt have contributed to this trend, and the number of alumni of record has disproportionately increased compared to the number of higher education donors.

In FY2007, foundations supplanted alumni as the largest source of education support, which continued into 2012, with 27.9 percent of higher education giving coming from foundations compared to 25.3 percent from alumni, reflecting the continued growth of family foundations which made up 37.2 percent of all foundation giving in FY2012.  


Family foundations are vehicles for giving from wealthy individuals, and institutions should use the principles of individual relationship building to cultivate their support. Annual giving programs should continue to explore various segmentation strategies and focus on dollars raised, numbers of donors and renewal rates. Institutions should find ways to engage recent graduates in areas other than giving so those with heavy debt remain connected until they are better able to make annual fund gifts.


Please email Bruce Matthews