Correction appended: This article incorrectly stated that the University raised $1.4 billion last fiscal year. The University raised $300 million. It also incorrectly stated that Wayne State University raised $818 million in last fiscal year. Wayne State has raised $818 million for its its “Wayne First” fundraising campaign, which started in 2005.
Donations to charities in Michigan have decreased more than 20 percent over the last year, according to a recent report, but donations to the University of Michigan and the state’s two other research universities are at some of their highest levels ever.
The report, released by GuideStar – a nonprofit group that surveys charities in Michigan – showed that 69 percent of charities in the state reported increased demands for their services, but only 52 percent reported increased contributions. The study also found that 22 percent of the charities had reported a decrease in contributions.
Financial officers at all three universities said school loyalty gives donors an incentive for to give to their alma mater rather than charity organizations.
About 40 percent of alumni who donate to the University live outside the state of Michigan, said Jerry May, the University’s vice president for development. That same group accounts for 60 percent of the money donated, he said.
Even though Michigan suffers from a 7.7 percent unemployment rate – one of the nation’s worst – a large portion of the donors to the University are Michigan residents. May explained that these alumni haven’t been as affected by the state’s troubles, because many have job and financial security.
“We have a very large concentration of alumni from the greater Detroit area, many of them have had jobs at companies and corporations their whole lives, and they’re people who have done well in spite of the last decade,” May said.
Colleges regularly run fundraising campaigns to meet fiscal goals, but officials say creating a good experience for students while they’re in school is the best way to motivate alumni to donate large amounts to their schools.
The University reported that it raised a record $300 million during the 2007 fiscal year.
May said the record fundraising efforts were because the University creates a community to draw in potential donors.
“Everybody develops those relationships,” May said. “Deans do, faculty do, fundraisers do, the president does; all those people and the volunteers are behind the institution that helps raise that money.”
Wayne State University also had a record-breaking year for fundraising. The school took in $818 million. David Ripple, Wayne State’s associate vice president for development and alumni affairs, said donors recognize the impact Wayne State has on the state’s economy, especially the Detroit area.
Charities did not report such positive results. Barbara Willyard, executive director of the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan, which raises money for civic issues in Michigan, said it was a challenging year for nonprofits and charities like hers.
“I don’t know what exactly the University of Michigan’s secret is except that many of their alumni have gone on to bigger and better things, and they keep reminding them that they got their education there and should give back,” Willyard said. “But what we try to do is tell them that it’s great that they give back to their universities. But there are other areas that need the money too.”
University alum Rich Rogel, a businessman who has donated heavily to the University, said giving to an educational institution is the best option.
“Without trying to sound too grandiose, I think the University of Michigan represents the future of the country and the world,” Rogel said. “In order for us to remain a great country, we have to have strong universities. What I’m doing is just helping to ensure the future.”