February 15, 2012; Source: Fox 25-Boston | Earlier this month, we noted the astounding multi-year fundraising totals of Stanford University, topping $6.2 billion in a five-year capital fundraising campaign which smashed previous comparable achievements by a couple of billion dollars. Since then, the Council for Aid to Education (CAE) has released its listing of the charitable fundraising totals of colleges and universities just for this past year. It appears Stanford’s five-year total was hardly front-loaded, as it topped all universities in 2011 with donations of $709.4 million, besting Harvard by more than $70 million.

The top nine private universities in the CAE report include the usual suspects in our nation’s nonprofit one percent (with percentage changes between 2010 and 2011):

  1. Stanford University $709,422,838 18.5%
  2. Harvard University $639,153,000 7.1%
  3. Yale University $580,325,333 52.4%
  4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology $534,342,957 74.0%
  5. Columbia University $495,561,626 23.2%
  6. Johns Hopkins University $485,410,060 13.5%
  7. Duke University $349,657,635 1.2%
  8. New York University $337,852,081 -3.3%
  9. Cornell University $315,531,371 2.4%

CAE concludes that the $30.3 billion in total collegiate fundraising in 2011 (public and private, including community colleges) is the second highest on record, with the highest being the 2008 pre-recession total of $31.6 billion. The 2011 total reflects a college fundraising rebound from the 2008 recession, and particularly from the big hit universities took in 2010. We suspect that few other nonprofits of any size can show similar annual or multi-year results. Presumably, many donors to elite universities tend toward the high end of the annual income scale. We wonder how these 2011 totals would have been different, if at all, had President Obama’s proposed charitable deduction cap of 28 percent been in effect. –Rick Cohen