U of I alumni give back to their alma mater

By Andy Kwalwaser

Despite a nationwide decrease in alumni donations to universities, the University of Illinois reported an increase of $18.8 million.

According to a report by the University of Illinois Foundation, alumni donated $57 million, a nine percent increase from last year.

However, a separate study by the Council for Aid to Education, a non-profit research group, found total gifts dipped nationwide by $130 million between 2006 and 2007.

That belies the fact that alumni still gave more than $8 billion to their alma maters last year.

“When people feel uncertain about the economy, it affects timing but doesn’t alter the tide,” said Ann Kaplan, director of the Voluntary Support of Education Study.

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“You almost never see a decrease in giving, but you see a flow.”

Total donations rose steadily in recent years, reaching a growth rate of 18.3 percent in 2006 before tapering off.

“When there was a recession, change in tax law or decline in the stock market, that had an impact on giving the next year,” Kaplan said.

The University received a total of $190.5 million in donations in the 2007 fiscal year, which included donations from alumni, corporations and other foundations.

Patricia Justice, assistant chancellor for development and deputy director for the University of Illinois Foundation, said the University is in the middle of several fundraising operations that may have lent to these increasing numbers.

“With recent graduates, you are trying to get established with a house and a job and you are trying to get established financially,” Justice said.

“I’m not sure students recognize the importance of private donations, but that’s not to say their love and loyalty isn’t strong.”

According to the council report, total private donations to universities nationwide reached $29.75 billion.

This includes money from corporations and foundations.

One-fourth of all donations nationwide went to the 20 schools with the most fundraising success.

Stanford reported the highest intake, with $832 million in private gifts.

Kaplan said fundraising momentum favors large universities with well-staffed programs.

“They’re bigger ships. They need more power to sail and can attract it,” she said.

“The trends are driven by these institutions.”