During the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010, the Cornell Annual Fund received $27.3 million in donations — a 12 percent increase from the previous year — according to Joseph Lyons ’98, interim director of the Annual Fund. This figure represents a “new all-time record” for donations to the Annual Fund. More than 32,000 donations were made to the fund, ranging from five to one million dollars, Lyons added.
“We were very excited to celebrate an eighth consecutive year in growth for Annual Fund giving to Cornell,” Lyons said in an e-mail. “I give enormous credit for this success to the incredibly strong leadership and support from Cornell’s trustees, alumni, students, parents and friends.” He added that a significant amount of money came from the 2010 Senior Class Campaign, which had a 52.1 percent participation rate, and a record amount of fundraising from the student-run Big Red Phonathon.
Donations to the Annual Fund make up only part of the money donated to the University each year.
“The Cornell Annual Fund represents the portion of current-use giving that has the highest level of flexibility for the deans, provost and other key University leaders,” Lyons said. Other gifts to the University are given for specific causes, but Annual Fund gifts can be used as needed.
According to the Annual Fund’s website, 54 percent of donations help support faculty and programs, 28 percent go to student financial aid, and “initiatives and projects” and “campus and facilities” each receive 9 percent.
The new record in donations to the Annual Fund comes at a time when universities nationwide have struggled to meet fundraising goals due to the recent recession.
“In the Annual Fund we were able to buck the trend of many schools,” Lyons said.
Lyons said there were two reasons the University was able to avoid a downturn in donations. Although there was a decrease in mid-range gifts, he said “especially generous” donations increased, which make up for the difference. Secondly, “our alumni, parents and friends have responded generously and broadly to the call for unrestricted, current-use Annual Fund gifts ... People understand this type of flexible money is critical in times like these,” Lyons said.
“The impact of these gifts is significant — especially when you consider that $27.3 million in Annual Fund gifts has the current-year spending power of approximately $550 million in endowment,” Lyons said. He explained that when a gift is made to the endowment, it gets invested and earns interest for the University. Part of the interest is reinvested and the other part is spent.
“Roughly, it would require an endowment that is $550 million, to generate $27.3 [million] in spendable money this year,” he said. “So, it helps demonstrate how powerful $27.3 [million] in Annual Fund dollars truly is.”
Although Lyons did not have specifics about donations to other schools, he said that “Cornell has made big strides since 2005 when compared to our peers.”