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Beyond the News

Donor Giving Strong

University Business, March 2012

An Atlas of Giving report reveals that the education sector was the strongest for charitable giving in 2011. The sector received $54.30 billion in 2011, an increase of 9.8 percent over 2010 when donors gave $49.44 billion. Education still falls in second place to religious charities, with education accounting for 16 percent of total giving in 2011 and religion at 36 percent. The religion sector saw a more modest 6.5 percent increase in giving in 2011 over 2010. Charitable donations as a whole increased by 7.5 percent.

The report doesn’t specifically focus on giving to higher ed, but Rob Mitchell, CEO of Atlas of Giving, notes that, in terms of dollars, higher ed likely accounts for 80 percent to 90 percent of donations. “Other parts of the sector, private secondary schools and one-off education programs, are relatively insignificant,” he says.

Gifts like the $350 million donation made to Cornell University in December of last year—the largest gift in Cornell history to date—likely contributed to the strong philanthropic year for the sector. On December 16, an anonymous donor, now known to be The Atlantic Philanthropies (whose founding chairman is 1956 alumnus Chuck Feeney), an organization that has given hundreds of millions of dollars to the university, donated the huge sum to Cornell to support its New York City Tech Campus.

In a statement, university officials said Feeney and The Atlantic Philanthropies have made it possible for the university to maintain its need-blind admission policy; and recruit and retain faculty in key academic areas, including the life sciences, biological sciences, and social sciences; among other initiatives.