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Higher Education Giving Trends Present & Future

We are now well into the new year and as your team begins to work towards your new plans and goals, let’s make sure you are up to speed on the giving trends that will shape 2018. Here are some notable trends that are predicted to continue gaining momentum in 2018:

International Giving

There has been a lot of attention on international donors in the recent past. If you aren’t looking abroad for major gifts, it’s time to start. The modern-day ease of cross-cultural experiences has fostered a new marketplace for fundraising. Here are some international ventures you may want to consider:

  1. Increase international alumni engagement with a regional council abroad – take a look at the MENAT Regional Council from Syracuse University

  2. Expatriate donors – see our past blog, Track & Engage Expat Alumni

  3. High net worth, non-alumni donors – Chinese philanthropists have taken the spotlight in recent past

Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs)

There seems to be mixed feelings on DAFs in the nonprofit world. Many think these funds are just a way for the wealthy to get immediate tax deductions while the charitable donations are stuck in limbo. Regardless – it is undeniable that their popularity has increased phenomenally and will likely continue to grow. 

Although these types of funds are often associated with the wealthy, according to Jeff Wilklow, VP of Campbell & Company, they don’t take a fortune to start and could get people allocating money to give. Not to mention, with the recent changes in charitable deductions due to the GOP tax bill, DAFs may be a way some donors can still catch a tax break for their donations.

  1. Tax-free growth

  2. No minimum amounts for grantmaking

  3. Many options like the ability to pool resources, leaving legacies or in memoriam gifting

Keep an eye out for these funds and consider sharing the benefits of this trend in giving.

Online Giving still on the Rise

According to Blackbaud’s 2016 Charitable Giving Report, anywhere from 5.1% to 7.7% of total fundraising revenue was from online giving. Although this may seem small, it is not the time to neglect your online giving efforts.

Higher ed online giving grew 12.4% in 2016 – this form of giving continues on an upward trend with no sights of stopping in the near future. This trend is the main reason to keep up with the online efforts – our future donors will be the digital, mobile-centric Millennials and iGen’ers in no time.

Another benefit – a review of Blackbaud’s Charitable Giving Reports showed that online initiatives increase donor engagement. And don’t forget about #GivingTuesday! The biggest day of charitable giving of the year ($168 million donated in 2016) is heavily marketed online and produced great results for colleges and universities.

Importance of High-Net-Worth Individuals

Focus plenty of effort on major gifts. Higher education is the nonprofit sector that receives the most major gifts over $10million so it is imperative to track and engage high-net-worth donors.

A few tips for prospecting wealthy donors:

  1. Use various methods to find a donor pool – wealth screenings, relationship mapping, predictive modeling

  2. Know your donors and their intent

  3. Share your goals and intentions with donors

Around 1/3 of all charitable donations came from the top 1% in 2016 so don’t miss out on reaching into this wealthy pool to prospect major gifts for your institution.

Targeted and Tailored Strategies

Customized engagement plans are going to continue to be a must-do for advancement professionals reiterating the importance of founding relationships with donors. Donors want flexible engagement that is tailored for them. Since giving tends to be based on a donor’s passion, they will also want to see the impact of their donation.

Consider what moves your donor while prospecting them. Some are motivated by recognition. Acknowledge these donors in publications or even with monuments (depending on the significance of their gift). Others may not want the spotlight and instead prefer to see the potential impact of their donation. These individuals may be persuaded by knowing how your institution has used similar donations in the past and seeing your goals for their contribution.

Predictions in The Philanthropy Outlook 2017 & 2018 by Marts & Lundy say there will be a 3.8% increase in total giving in 2018 so there is a lot to look forward to in the upcoming year. In addition to this years giving trends, reflect on your institution’s strengths and potential areas for growth. Companies like Impactrics offer personalized help to assess your alumni needs and engagement opportunities. Cheers to a successful 2018!


Sources & Additional Reading


[10] Inside the Minds of Wealthy Donors,

[12] The Philanthropy Outlook 2017 & 2018,

[13] New Year, New Opportunities,


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