The Rich Keep Getting Richer^2

Earlier this week, the good folks at Eduventures sent out an email that included a comparison of higher education fundraising share of total dollars raised broken down by the 100 wealthiest schools vs. all others.

As you can see, the wealthiest schools in America are earning an increasing and, relative to the other 2,000+ universities in America, outsized proportion of donor dollars.

If you're Harvard, Yale, Princeton or one of the other 97 financially stout institutions, congrats. This blog isn't about wagging a finger at that concentrated success.

This blog is for the other 99% of higher education. Eduventures was making a point in their article that every school can and should be pursuing the blockbuster gifts. And, it's true. Every school can earn that kind of support. The issue is that, for the wealthiest schools, they generally enjoy cultures of giving. When a Harvard gift officer sits down with a wealthy alumna, there's a very good chance she's been giving in increasing ways since she graduated. There's a cultural hurdle there that the wealthiest schools do not have to clear.

At almost every other school, however, that hurdle is very real. Earning a major gift from someone who hasn't learned the value of donating to their alma mater is significantly more complicated. Yes, they're financially qualified to write a big check, but are they culturally qualified?

Generally, no.

The response to this giving reality shouldn't be about the financial cleavage. The response should be towards building a giving culture. Does that giving culture emerge overnight? Is it going to make your campaign this year reach loftier heights? Nope. That's not a rational expectation. It takes time to build a culture of giving.

But you can and must start now. Where schools embrace this call to building a culture of giving through more dynamic alumni engagement efforts, a greater focus on annual giving, and, importantly, building awareness amongst grads for what's happening on campus that each and every one of them can personally relate and give to, that culture will grow. In the near term, participation will increase.

The mid-term will see new middle of the pyramid gifts.

And the long-term will see total giving between all cohorts of schools migrate back towards a sustainable balance.

Nick Zeckets