Of 5,300 colleges that receive alumni donations, Penn receives the 10th highest amount — part of a group of 20 schools that gets roughly 30 percent of all college donations in the United States.
According to the report by the Council for Aid in Education, Stanford and Harvard topped the list, each with over $1 billion in donations. Penn was ranked No. 10 on the list and No. 5 among the Ivies, pulling $520 million in donations in 2015, a significant increase from $367 million in 2014.
“It’s been an extraordinary year for education, in terms of total support given,” Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations John Zeller said. “Our numbers continue to be campaign-level numbers without being in a campaign.”
Penn recently concluded its Making History campaign in 2013, which raised $4.3 billion in alumni donations — the largest amount amassed from a fundraising effort to date. Just a year later, Penn President Amy Gutmann launched another initiative, Penn Compact 2020, to help increase financial aid funding at the University.
Penn Impact 2020, which goes along with Penn Compact 2020, aims specifically to raise $1 billion from 2005 to 2020 for undergraduate, graduate and professional student aid.
Critics have pointed out that donors should not be giving millions of dollars to emblazon their names on buildings at elite colleges when the money could be spent towards other areas of need in society. Zeller objected to this statement.
“[Just] because someone is generous to their alma mater doesn’t mean they’re not generous in their own community or to other charities,” he said. “These are people who make gifts based on impact. I think donors are very much attracted to [giving to Penn], but that also doesn’t mean they’re not generous to other causes as well.”
Zeller said that donors typically made contributions less for recognition and more for a specific goal they want to see carried out at the university. Donors who give to Penn are investing in research, arts and a chance to make an impact.
“It’s very seldom about, ‘Oh, I’m going to put my name on a building,’” Zeller said. “What attracts a donor is what the building enables the institution to do. It’s what goes on inside the building.”
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