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Posted October 7th, 2022

Tough Times for Education

Giving USA 2022: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the year 2021 found that giving to the education sector declined last year and that education was the only sector to have negative results. The figure dropped 2.8% to an estimated $70.79 billion for the year. This could be a one-year fluctuation, or it could be a symptom of bigger problems facing the sector, given the enrollment drop during the pandemic and debates about the value of higher education, student debts and the role of education in today’s society.

The Chronicle of Higher Education’s academic kick-off issue on Sept. 2, 2022, was devoted to the current challenges facing higher education but is relevant for the entire sector. Demographics, the economy, tuition, the pandemic, inflation and many other factors are contributing to an enrollment crisis which, in turn, impacts tuition revenue and other fees for services. Meanwhile, economic uncertainty is impacting investment and endowment returns.

Then there are changes in tax policy that have increased the cost of charitable giving for many of America’s most generous donors. All in all, this has created a very challenging environment for educational institutions of all sorts and sizes. Probably the biggest factor has been demographics and dealing with the educational needs of large and small generations.

Educational needs expand as larger generations move through the process and then face contraction as a result of the needs and preferences of smaller generations. The Baby Boomers were followed by the small Gen X group, who were followed by the larger Millennials group, who were then followed by the smaller Generation Z cohorts. The associated fluctuations in demand affected the K-12, college, university and perhaps graduate school systems. The pandemic also had a negative impact on involvement, affecting the number of enrollees now and in the future as millions fell out of the college-bound category.

Even colleges and universities with significant endowment and revenue funds find that economic uncertainty, falling stock and real estate markets and rising inflation are creating additional financial pressures. John Griswold of Common Fund Institute has observed that the best-performing endowments had a combination of good investment performance and excellent gift development programs that included an active and ongoing planned giving component to attract new endowment gifts.

In today’s topsy-turvy world, planned and major gifts are a critical component of financial sustainability. Understanding the importance of developing an ongoing revenue source of large gifts, whether current or deferred, is the key to surviving and possibly thriving during these challenging times. Make sure you have a strategic plan to secure the needed gift revenue and employ the proper tactics to inform, educate and motivate prospects and donors to invest in your mission today and in the future. As we enter the most generous time of the year, consider fine-tuning your gift development efforts to make the best of the time that remains in 2022 and start 2023 with a renewed focus on addressing your fundraising needs in these challenging times. For information about year-end  fundraising tools and other information on how the Sharpe Groupe might assist you and your staff, visit https://sharpenet.com/make-the-most-of-year-end-2022/ .

By: Barlow Mann, JD

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