Ohio State ranked 19th out of all colleges and universities for charitable giving in 2017, garnering $403 million, according to data released last week from a national survey. The university ranked 21st in each of the past three years.
The university benefited from a swell in overall fundraising, with schools across the country raising a record $43.6 billion in 2017, a 6.3 percent increase from the previous year and the most since the survey began in 1957.
The fundraising efforts from Ohio State were bolstered by its record-breaking “But For Ohio State” campaign, which ended in September 2016 and raised more than $3 billion in seven years.
Laura MacDonald, president of the Benefactor Group, a consulting firm for nonprofit fundraising campaigns based in Columbus, said specific fundraising campaigns tend to inspire donors to give more, rallying around “big ideas.”
The survey from the nonprofit Council for Aid to Education compiled results from 933 institutions for the year 2017. Ohio State recorded more than $532 million, a record haul for a fiscal year, according to a press release from August. The university’s reported $403 million in the survey is lower because the number does not include future gifts or pledges.
MacDonald said as state funding for higher education has declined over the years, the importance of philanthropic funding has increased.
“Philanthropy can provide a margin of excellence in academic programs, assure access to a college education for those who couldn’t otherwise afford it, attract world-class faculty and researchers, etc.,” she said in an email. “That is to say — government dollars open the door, philanthropic dollars make it meaningful to enter the academy.”
In general, Ohio State bucked national trends found in the survey in two areas: individual and corporate contributions. While personal giving drove the increase across the United States, Ohio State saw its biggest spike from corporate donors.
From July 1 through the end of 2017, Ohio State’s fundraising from corporations increased by 40 percent from the same time period in 2016, according to documents provided to the Board of Trustees.
However, at Ohio State, individual contributions were down, with decreases from both alumni and non-alumni.
Alumni gave 13 percent less than the previous year’s time frame and non-alumni gave 6 percent less, culminating in 10 percent total drop from individual donors, according to the documents made available to the Board.
Events such as Ohio State’s campus-wide day of giving, which took place for the first time on Valentine’s Day last year, drum up individual support.
Ohio State spokesman Ben Johnson said the first installment of the event brought in nearly $3.5 million.
MacDonald said attracting and retaining individual donors is an indicator of the overall health of a fundraising program.
The day of giving is part of Ohio State’s wider efforts under the #BuckeyeLove campaign.
The hashtag is equal parts pay-it-forward as it is fundraising, and Johnson said the 36-hour event will take place again this year, beginning Feb. 28.
Additionally, endowment values increased 9 percent across the board due to a strong stock market throughout the year, according to the survey.
Ohio State saw its endowment grow as well, thanks to an influx of cash from privatizing its energy systems.
The 19 percent increase in the market value of Ohio State’s endowment was the highest of any institutions with endowments over a billion dollars, according to The NonProfit Times.
The university’s endowment crossed the $5 billion threshold for the first time ever in October, shortly after the energy deal was finalized, according to Board documents from November.