Do you see the general results of this year’s survey indicating increased giving, particularly at the leadership level, a reflection of the improving economy?
I would not attribute the general increase to just one thing; I’m sure there are lots of reasons people saw improvements (and not everyone did). Certainly more economic security is a contributing factor, but better annual fund approaches or strategic decisions by the university or a great football season or a single fantastic gift could account for some of the growth. I would hesitate to make a generalization on this subject.
Does it surprise you that despite the economy, people report consistent progress in annual giving over the last four years? Why or why not?
Not really; in my experience, it was major gifts from the big donors where the drop was most significant during the recession. Annual giving is the most democratic of segments; everyone’s dollar matters equally, and the small-dollar, loyal donors kept right on giving during lean times. These habitual donors may actually be the most likely to keep everything else afloat when the going gets tough, since the impact on their overall wealth is less substantial (which might also make them likelier to respond to appeals for increases during tough times).
Leadership giving appears to be healthy, but the survey indicates that numbers of alumni donors are down (following three years of increases). How would you interpret that?
Future imperfect. I suspect this is a trend we will continue to see: more money, fewer donors, especially in the lower-dollar tiers. The givers who have higher education as one of their top priorities will meet the increased need, and those who are less committed will continue to drop away. The inability to make significant headway with the new generation of givers does not bode well for this trend, either.
The majority of responders report anticipated increase in dollars in the 1-5% range. Does that strike you as low? Or does 5% annual growth indicate a healthy program?
Given the alternative, I think any increase is healthy! Some years will be better than others, but as long as the program is growing, I think the rate at which it does is not particularly significant. And it’s a relative number: given the different sizes of annual funds, a 1% increase may be a huge leap for some programs.