US colleges and universities attracted $30.3 billion in charitable contributions last year, rebounding from a lag in donations that began with the 2008 recession.
Stanford University, near Palo Alto, California, topped the list with $709.4 million, according to the Council for Aid to Education, a nonprofit organization in New York. Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, received $639.2 million.
“We remain in awe and humbled,” Martin Shell, vice president for development at Stanford, said. The school completed a five-year fundraising campaign in December, bringing in $6.2 billion. The donations have funded more than 130 new faculty positions, more than $250 million in undergraduate scholarships and 38 new or renovated buildings.
The majority of college donations, 86%, went to a quarter of the 1,009 schools that participated in the Council’s survey. Each of the top four, Stanford, Harvard, Yale and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, raised more in donations last year than the American Heart Association, which received $510.6 million in the fiscal year that ended in June, according to the national charity.
Gifts for capital purposes, such as endowments and construction, increased 14%, while total contributions jumped 8.2%. “In tough economic times, donors don’t necessarily stop giving but they do reduce the number of organizations they support,” David Onion, senior associate vice president for development at the University of Texas-Austin, said.