On the horizon: fewer donations to educational institutions

The ever-climbing rocket that is educational giving might be starting to sputter. The struggling economy has forced education fundraisers to slash 2008 estimates and predict a decrease for 2009, according to a survey released Friday by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education . Giving to institutions this year is expected to decrease 1.7 percent, according to a surveyed conglomerate of senior fundraisers from colleges, universities and independent schools. The news could even spell trouble for large public institutions like the University of Minnesota, which often uses donorsâÄô funds to help award scholarships and assist in research endeavors. Survey results also delivered an adjustment in last yearâÄôs giving estimate. Donations were originally expected to be up more than 7 percent, but the number now stands as a negligible increase from 2007. If projections hold true, fundraisers will enter into territory they have rarely been in for the last two decades. For the past 20 years, the annual average increase for giving has been 7 percent, according to the association. The projected decrease would be the largest drop in giving since 1988, according to association statistics. âÄúAfter years of healthy annual increases in philanthropic support, institutions may now have to adjust to flat or declining donations,âÄù John Lippincott , president of the council, said in a statement. The University has reaped the benefits of such increases, as it posted back to back record-setting years for gifts received in fiscal years 2007 and 2008 . In the last fiscal year, the school received $194 million worth of gifts , according to its latest report on giving. That money helped with projects like the creation of a research center at an eco-system reserve in East Bethel, Minn. Comparatively, the University received $92 million in 1998. The University of Minnesota Foundation said it wasnâÄôt prepared to speak on whether they expect to see a decrease because they havenâÄôt tabulated December donations . But Minneapolis -based philanthropic consultant Bruce Flessner said higher-education institutions will definitely be impacted by the countryâÄôs economic woes. He said slowing markets wonâÄôt hit fundraising as hard as other sectors of the economy, but it will be a tough year for fundraising at universities. Flessner, who also served as a vice president at the University of Minnesota Foundation about 25 years ago , said he predicts charity overall will drop by about 5 percent in 2009. Higher-education will see a number slightly less than that unless the economy rebounds, he said. âÄúAmericans give generously in good times and tough times. However, during recessions giving is flat or drops slightly,âÄù he said, citing long-term studies.