Cornell ranked ninth for most donations out of every non-profit in the United States in 2017, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Within higher education, Cornell ranked third after Harvard and Stanford.
The University collected over $743 million in donations, compared to $1.28 billion from Harvard, according to The Chronicle.
Cornell’s donation success is partially attributed to the University’s size, as it has the most students out of all the Ivy League schools and by extension the largest alumni base. Cornell’s large donations are also due to a “culture of transformational gifts,” said Fred Van Sickle, vice president for alumni affairs and development, in an email to The Sun.
Donors are able to control where the money they give is allocated. The majority of the money is given for a specific purpose, such as for scholarships, fellowships and programs, while some donors allow unrestricted use of their donation, according to Van Sickle.
The number of donors has increased over time. In the 2017-2018 school year, the University raised $512 million with a record 79,000 donors. But at the same time, Cornell faces challenges in the percentage of alumni that do donate. This percentage has always lagged compared to other Ivy League schools, according to Van Sickle.
“All of these gifts make a difference, whether because of their singular or combined impact,” Van Sickle told The Sun.
To address these difficulties, Cornell has attempted to gain more donations from new alumni through easier online giving and communicating the impact donations have.
“We have to change with our alumni — to meet them where they are and help them to help the university,” Van Sickle told The Sun.
Like most higher education institutions, Cornell receives many donations from wealthy alumni who give large contributions. But some initiatives are targeted towards the larger alumni base. Giving Day is an annual event that promotes student and alumni donations. For Giving Day 2018, the University raised $7.8 million with twice as many student contributions compared to 2017.
“Our overall success is due to the variety of gifts we receive from alumni of all ages — from first year out college to those eighty years out — as well as parents of Cornellians and countless friends of the university,” Van Sickle said.