Getting Advancement into Gear: Higher Education Charitable Giving Trends | npENGAGE

Getting Advancement into Gear: A Conversation on Higher Education Charitable Giving Trends

By on Apr 26, 2018


Higher Ed Fundraising

Highlights of 2017 Charitable Giving Performance in Higher Education

As reflected in the recently released Charitable Giving Report Spotlight: How Fundraising Performed in the Higher Education Sector in 2017, donors have responded to the calls for support in a resounding way.  Here are some key stats that recap the impact to the higher ed sector:

  • Online giving grew 13.2% in 2017 compared to 2016

higher ed total online giving

  • The percentage of total fundraising that came from online giving reached 7.3%–a record high for higher education

higher ed online giving percentage

  • Despite receiving record high online giving donations, higher education institutions only experienced nominal growth overall with a 1.6% increase in giving
  • Higher education received 20% of revenue on #GivingTuesday–more than any other sector

All sectors experienced growth in their online giving programs in 2017, showing that this type of giving continues to grow as donors shift in age and other demographics.

Higher Education Leaders Discuss 2017 Higher Education Charitable Giving Results

I recently had the privilege of hosting a panel discussion with Sue Cunningham, President of Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and James Wiley, Principal Analyst for Technology at Eduventures, about 2017 charitable giving performance and trends for higher education. In this engaging webinar, Sue and James provided their unique perspectives on the reasons driving these new trends around online giving, #GivingTuesday, and more.  Read on for a few condensed excerpts from our discussion:

Tim Hill: What strategies are institutions using to fuel online growth?

Sue Cunningham: Institutions are using a variety of tactics to grow online giving programs.  The quality of data about alumni and other friends and stakeholders continues to be key.  This helps drive people—in a targeted and appropriate way—to online campaigns via email, text, and other methods. We see continuing efforts to build peer-to-peer networks and generate a profound and captivating sense of urgency through giving days, which can lead to positive outcomes.  Many institutions focus their social media outreach to communicate how gifts impact people at the institution.  Finally, well thought out stewardship remains vital.  Online giving enables institutions to reach wider audiences; this requires, therefore, broader follow up after the initial online outreach. Ultimately, relationships remain at the heart of our work, even when relationships are mediated through new technological tools.

James Wiley: We have seen a rise in the use of social media tools, such as alumni networking, to help build online communities alongside a CRM and other areas of technology.  More institutions are bringing technology from being back in the operational area to the forefront and introducing more strategy around communication plans and engagement plans into the strategy conversation.

Tim Hill: Higher education institutions received 20% of the #GivingTuesday revenue in 2017—more than any other sector.  What strategies are institutions using to keep #GivingTuesday engagement high year after year?  

Sue Cunningham: Colleges and universities imprint individuals in powerful and long-lasting ways. The genuine sense of connection we hope our alumni feel with their institutions shows up on these giving days. These giving days offer the institution and its alumni and friends the opportunity to harness that connection and amplify it in ways that other organizations, without such a natural stakeholder base, may have more difficulty. Strategies we have seen for successful giving days include: strong communications plans leading up to events, faculty, students and presidents as the ‘faces’ of these focused efforts, and the full engagement of alumni volunteers.

James Wiley: What is critical about #GivingTuesday are the additional metrics outside of how much money institutions raise.  Tracking KPIs related to a rise in activity of institutions’ networks, such as page visits, community engagement, and other networking activity is key.  Successful universities realize that #GivingTuesday is a catalyst to build other social networking and peer-to-peer areas.

Tim Hill: How can higher education institutions use reports like this Higher Education Charitable Giving Report to help set strategies for the future?

Sue Cunningham: I think these reports are valuable in different ways to advancement leaders.  Anticipating what is possible in terms of engagement and philanthropy is key to the strategic planning of institutions. And being able to track performance and trends is vital in informing those key decisions as the future of our educational institutions is being considered. If I think about my own experiences as an advancement leader, I’ve found this study and studies such as this invaluable in building the case internally for where it is worth making investments and being able to measure how we’re doing relative to the sector as a whole and to other institutions.

James Wiley: We are seeing a lot of institutions use reports like these to benchmark for their institution. We found that it’s very important for institutions to take these benchmarks along with any additional data points that they can measure and then think about what their technology is allowing them to track and support.  By thinking not just in a particular area, but across the institution, they can turn their benchmarks, the deltas, the factors leading up to it, and the technology they can use to support their future strategy.

For my complete interview with Sue and James, I invite you to watch the recorded webinar: Getting Advancement into Gear: A Conversation around 2017 Charitable Giving trends in Higher Education.

What’s Next?

As the results have revealed, there has been a significant shift in the type of donor demographics, as evident in the preferred method of fundraising. The challenge now falls on the higher education community to adapt and find innovative ways to appeal to the new majority donor base in their upcoming strategies and campaigns. Can higher education maintain or possibly outperform last year’s results? We shall see when next year’s Charitable Giving Report for Higher Education is released.



Tim joined Blackbaud in October 2016 as President & GM of Higher Education Solutions. He is a visionary, award winning global marketing, sales and operations executive with over 25 years of experience at high growth technology companies. He has led worldwide sales, marketing and operations teams at leading corporations like Blackboard, SAGA Software (Software AG) and Iomega Corporation. With more than two decades of success in technology sales/marketing strategy and brand development, Tim has been named one of the “Top 10 U.S. Marketers” by Crain’s Business Marketing; “Top 100 Executives” by Advertising Age and won “Product Launch of the Year” from Marketing Computers (for the Iomega zip drive). 

Before joining Blackbaud, Tim served as a senior executive at Blackboard for over eight years, most recently as President, Global Marketing. Prior to this, Tim was President of the Professional Education business unit (ProEd) focused on non-profit, government, corporate and for-profit education market verticals. He also held senior posts as Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing and International Sales at Software AG Americas and served as Chief Marketing & Sales Officer at Iomega Corporation. 

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