Giving USA Higher Education Snapshot

The recently released Giving USA 2014 report describes broad trends in higher education philanthropy. Total giving reached $335.17 billion in 2013, a 4.4 percent increase in current dollars and a 3.0 percent increase in inflation-adjusted dollars. The education subsector received the second-largest share of charitable dollars in 2013, at 16 percent of the total.  

Here, we break down important trends from the report and make broad recommendations for higher education institutions as they build their fundraising programs. We welcome your thoughts and questions; please don’t hesitate to contact Bruce Matthews, Patrick Johnson and James Plourde.  


Key Findings

  • Giving to the education subsector amounted to 16 percent of total giving in 2013.

  • Contributions to education organizations rose 8.9 percent between 2012 and 2013 to $52.07 billion.

  • The estimate for giving to the education subsector in 2013 includes two mega-gifts totaling $293 million that went to U.S.-based universities.

  • Compared with all other charitable subsectors, giving to education organizations has seen the most positive growth since the end of the Great Recession in 2009.

  • Donors to education increasingly supported capital purposes over current operations at higher education institutions in 2013, according to the Council for Aid to Education (CAE). In addition, alumni giving showed the strongest growth among all donor types to these institutions in 2013.

We recommend that higher education institutions:

  • Build a “high impact” fundraising program: Fundraising programs should focus on securing leadership and major gifts. Doing so requires strategic investment in fundraising staff and systems, as well as training for leadership, staff and volunteers; however, such a program almost always provides the greatest return on investment.

  • Develop a powerful case for support: With the continuing government support cuts higher education institutions should develop clear, concise and consistent case that describes their vision, impact and need for philanthropic support. Stakeholders at all levels should contribute to the development of case messages and be prepared to share them with a range of prospective supporters.

  • Engage students as lifelong donors: Students have been critical but often neglected segment of philanthropists. Results of a recent study support the notion that more resources, programming, and integrated activity related to student giving can nurture philanthropic engagement among students, which in turn can create a foundation for future fundraising success.

We welcome your comments below. Want to learn more? Contact Bruce Matthews, Vice President, Patrick Johnson, Senior Consultant and James Plourde at Campbell & Company and the Collins Group, a division of Campbell & Company.

About the Campbell & Company Higher Education Practice

The Campbell & Company Higher Education Team understands the context in which higher education institutions operate, and create a structure and process within that context, tailored to your community, that allows philanthropy to grow. For 37 years, we have successfully partnered with a range of higher education institutions, including large public universities, mid-majors, private liberal arts colleges and community colleges. We also draw on our staffs’ experience to develop initiatives for specific higher education segments including Historically Black Colleges and Universities and professional schools.

Campbell & Company maintains offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle and Washington, DC. For more information, please telephone (877) 957-0000 toll free, email or visit