Despite economy, giving up at UNC, Duke

Triangle Business Journal

CHAPEL HILL – Philip Blumberg, chairman and CEO of Blumberg Capital Partners in Coral Gables, Fla., says he simply wanted to give back to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where three consecutive generations of his family have gone to college.

He isn’t alone. In terms of total annual fundraising, UNC-Chapel Hill is gaining on Duke University and its legion of well-off alums. Comparing 2006 to 2011, UNC-CH has experienced a 16 percent increase in dollars given while Duke has seen a 5 percent increase.

Of course, in total dollars, Duke still received more gifts. In fact, its $350 million raised in 2011 ranked 12th in the nation while UNC-CH’s $275 million ranked 19th.

In comparison, N.C. State University received $94 million in gifts and new commitments, including $82 million in receipts, a 19 percent increase from the prior year.

Blumberg, who was profiled in a UNC Office of University Development report, says he wanted to support the university to improve both the physical campus and campus life.

Donation figures are compiled by the Council for Aid to Education, which releases stats on the nation’s top 20 fundraising institutions. Nationally, colleges and universities raised $30 billion in 2011, an 8 percent increase over 2010. As state budget cuts continue to plague public higher education in North Carolina and other states, campus leaders say charitable giving is more important than ever in order to provide financial aid, retain professors and continue high-level research and innovation.

As with other nonprofits, the large majority of charitable giving is concentrated at the top. In fact, 86 percent of money given, or $25 billion, went to only one-quarter of all universities. The bottom half of fundraising institutions combined for less than 5 percent of all giving. Other national trends show that foundations made up about 29 percent of donations and alumni accounted for about 26 percent in 2011.

Although Duke experienced only a 1 percent increase in 2011 over 2010, fundraising staff say they are poised for big gains in the coming years. The CAE numbers report money that was actually collected in that year, but Duke also received several large pledges. Combining gifts received with pledges, Duke actually saw a 45 percent increase, one of the largest increases ever.

Duke already has received some large gifts this year, including the largest ever from individuals to support financial aid – a $50 million donation from Bruce and Martha Karsh. Bruce Karsh, president of Oaktree Capital Management in Los Angeles, is a 1977 Duke graduate and a member of the university’s board of trustees.

“The timing of major gifts, all of which are in development typically for many years, plays a large role in these year-to-year rankings,” says Mike Schoenfeld, Duke’s vice president for communications. “Overall, we are very optimistic about fundraising and have seen a strong recovery from the depths of the recession, with many more major donors interested in making significant long-term commitments to the university.”

When thinking about fundraising, UNC does not set a specific target for donation size. Fundraising staff “actively seek annual fund gifts as well as major gifts,” says Scott Ragland, the director of UNC development communications. He says donors who make regular annual gifts can sometimes become major donors.

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