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Small universities are hurt by donation decreases

With a $350 million decrease in post-secondary donations this year, smaller institutions are feeling the pinch

Dec 9, 2016

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The University of Alberta is a clear outlier – last year was a record year for donations, totalling more than $115 million for the university’s third-highest total ever.
Image courtesy University of Calgary
We have to re-adjust our strategy in terms of engaging people, making sure we stay on their radar. The economic uncertainty provides us with the opportunity to reflect upon our strategy and make adjustments along the way. – Nuvyn Peters, vice-president of development and alumni engagement, University of Calgary, to the Calgary Herald

As the price of oil has plunged, so too have donations to Alberta’s colleges and universities. Fundraising and donations to Alberta’s post-secondary institutions decreased by 35 per cent between 2015 and 2016, which comes to a decrease of more than $350 million. That’s dramatic – but how is that loss distributed? Fortunately, the University of Alberta and University of Calgary have been quite successful in keeping donations flowing. But that means the bulk of the $350-million loss fell on smaller institutions like Keyano College in Fort McMurray, which receives most of its donations from energy companies.

$1.3 billion: University of Alberta endowment

That’s the fifth-largest endowment among Canadian universities. The largest is the University of Toronto’s, at $2.1 billion

$791 million: University of Calgary endowment

Despite the downturn, the U of C is still on track to meet its goal of $1.3 billion by 2020. The number of gifts has stayed the course, but the average amount has decreased.

Most of Keyano College’s losses come from medium-sized companies that have pulled back their donations; support from larger corporations has remained steady, though funding pledges are generally for shorter terms now. The wildfire in Fort McMurray also meant the cancellation of a golf-tournament fundraiser that usually brings in $120,000 for the college.

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