Big disparities in philanthropy for universities – Study

Ten South African universities collected a total of R659 million (US$55 million) in philanthropic income during 2013 from 4,355 donors, with nearly half from international organisations. But there were major disparities, a new survey has revealed – two universities attracted half of the funding while five received less than R23 million between them.

The pilot Annual Survey of Philanthropy in Higher Education, or ASPIHE, released last month, analysed philanthropic income to South African universities and the direct costs of raising this income.

The study was conducted in 2014 by EduActive Solutions on behalf of Inyathelo: The South African Institute for Advancement, with financial support from the Kresge Foundation.

The aim was for the annual survey to become a tool for collecting reliable data on philanthropic support for higher education, developing best practice indicators for philanthropic income, assisting research on scholarship, assessing the impact of donor funding on higher education and providing examination of other forms of third-stream funding for universities.

Among the 10 out of 25 public universities that participated in the first survey, five were ‘traditional’ universities – Cape Town, Pretoria, KwaZulu-Natal, the Witwatersrand and Western Cape. There were three universities of technology – Cape Peninsula, Durban and Tshwane – and the two ‘comprehensive’ universities of Johannesburg and Zululand.

Philanthropy funding

Philanthropy excludes any infrastructure grants and subsidies from South Africa’ Department of Higher Education and Training. It recognises funds from individuals, bequests and donations from foreign governments and agencies, among others.

Khairoonisa Foflonker, Inyathelo programme coordinator, said the study embraced a focused approach to ensure consistency of data across institutions.

International comparison was catered for by following the example of the Ross-CASE survey in the United Kingdom, which provides information about gift revenue and fundraising costs to measure the philanthropic performance of higher education institutions and also limits its scope to the key advancement functions of fundraising and alumni relations, she said.

The annual CASE-sponsored survey of giving to education in the United States, conducted by the Council for Aid to Education, is a comparable study that follows the same route.

The funding flows

A total of 4,355 donors across the 10 institutions gave R659 million.

The (unnamed) university with the highest amount of philanthropic support reported R181 million in donor income from 1,873 donors. This included R50 million from one international donor.

The institution with the lowest funding – R2.7 million – had only nine donors for the year. It had a new advancement operation and the ‘smallest largest’ gift of R585 000.

According to the survey there were other major disparities between universities.

For instance, 55% of the R659 million in philanthropic support was reported by only two universities, 96% of the income collected was shared by half of the institutions, and five of the 10 institutions accounted for less than R23 million between them.

Traditional universities attracted the vast bulk of philanthropic resources, sharing between them more than 91% of donor income – but attributing stronger philanthropic pull to traditional universities is not entirely correct because the sample surveyed included less than half of South Africa’s universities.

The philanthropists

International donors contributed 47% of philanthropic income but comprised only 13% of all donors. One institution had 444 international donors and several had none at all.

South African sources contributed 53% of the reported total philanthropic income but accounted for 87% of the total number of donors. Individuals comprised by far the largest category of donors, making up 75% of the 4,355 donors.

The figures indicate that the largest philanthropic support was derived from trusts and foundations, which contributed 61% of all donor income in 2013. The private sector gave 14% and individuals – though the majority of donors – including bequests provided just 4%.

This differs from the United Kingdom and the United States, where alumni and other individuals contribute 39% and 46% of all philanthropic funding respectively.

Private philanthropy contributed 64% of income, totalling R435 million, from 3,672 or 84% of all donors. The largest proportion of philanthropic support from private donors – 83% – came from outside the country.

Bilateral and multilateral agencies, and a mix of civil society and religious organisations, provided 21% – this is a much lower 10% in the UK and US, where access to such funds is limited. Gifts in kind were 6%.

The vast majority of donations – 3,455 or 61% – were less than R1,000 in value while less than 2% exceeded R5 million. And 22% of contributions were valued somewhere between R1,000 and R1 million.

Advancing philanthropy

Foflonker said it was hoped that participation in the survey would have developmental benefits, firstly by encouraging participating institutions to improve data collection practices and management information systems and, secondly, by standardising definitions and categories across the sector.

The current report is a snapshot of 2013. In future the main report will begin to record and identify change over time, thus introducing an analysis of temporal trends in the relationship between philanthropy and South African higher education.

Foflonker said that in future each participating university would be supplied with a confidential institutional benchmarking report showing separated data for the institution itself and comparing this with the grouped data.

These short individualised reports will provide participating institutions with a basis for benchmarking and comparative performance assessment. The study would also in future probe effective strategies for fundraising.

She said the South African higher education sector was highly vulnerable to vicissitudes in the priorities, moods and other uncontrollable variables of foreign donors.

And in terms of individual giving in South Africa, said Foflonker: “We speak of ‘inculcating’ a culture of giving, particularly through alumni and pre-alumni programmes at universities, but the assumption that South Africans were not already immersed in a culture of giving was simply not accurate.

“South Africans have been and continue to give in various ways including, for example, ‘paying it forward’ by sponsoring community members and family members to study at universities. Such forms of giving, however, are not specifically directed at universities and are thus not included in this survey.”