Report finds education donations increase for first time since 2000

The amount donated to charities overall in 2004 increased 2.3 percent.

Cati Vanden Breul

In 2004, donations from Americans to education increased for the first time since 2000, according to an annual report released by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Accounting for inflation, the amount donated to charities overall in 2004 increased 2.3 percent, to approximately $248.5 billion.

Donations to educational institutions totaled $33.8 billion and fell short only in comparison with those given to religious organizations, according to the report, “Giving USA.”

Gerald Fischer, vice president and chief executive officer of the University of Minnesota Foundation, said an improving economy gave potential donors a better financial climate in which to make donations.

“This was the first year we had better-performing markets,” Fischer said.

Donors who give to education are fulfilling their goal of making a difference, he said.

“Education is so strong a case because it’s the best way for society to improve itself,” Fischer said. “Either for the student who gets education Ö or for the discovery that is coming out of research.”

The foundation has made an effort to better engage alumni and donors in giving, he said.

“We’re doing a better job of listening to donors and the community,” Fischer said. “If we listen to what donors’ passions, dreams and values are, we can develop a proposal that will encourage them to donate.”

Some University students perform community service to show donors appreciation for their gifts.

Tiffany Olson, who will be a statistics sophomore in the fall, is a Student Alumni Ambassador with the University Alumni Association.

“We want to show the community how much the ‘U of M’ cares and how much we appreciate their contribution to the University,” Olson said.

Ambassadors go to homeless shelters to serve breakfast and tutor elementary school children in after-school programs, she said.

“We want to give back and say, ‘Thanks,’ ” Olson said.

The University can offer scholarships and fellowships to students, renovate or enhance buildings on campus, and improve research with donors’ donations, Fischer said.

“Gifts to education, and particularly higher education, really support changing the world for the better, which is the donor’s first goal,” he said.

The University received $245.6 million from donors in 2004, an increase of approximately $6 million that made it fifth on the list of public schools with the most donations.

Educational institutions received 13.6 percent of all donations in 2004 and saw a 2.7 percent increase from 2003.