This Higher Education Spotlight is adapted from the CCS Fundraising 2023 Philanthropy Pulse report to provide an in-depth look at nonprofits in this sector.

Explore the 2023 Philanthropy Pulse report in its entirety.

Among 138 higher education respondents, sixty percent (60%) of data represented below are sourced from universities, followed by two-year, community or junior colleges (14%), then undergraduate, graduate, or other institutions. Most (73%) had a fully centralized fundraising model, with a central office or foundation that coordinates fundraising operations.

FY21 represented a strong fiscal year for the higher education sector, with three out of four respondents (75%) reporting that their revenue increased or held steady from the prior year.

​Major gifts represent the dominant funding source (46%) for higher education, followed by foundation and corporate grants (23%) and annual fund donations (16%). 90% of all higher education respondents said that they received gifts from DAFs and family foundations, but only 23% received gifts from giving circles. With $15 billion in potential funding from collective giving groups, this could be an area of opportunity in the higher education sector.

The top two challenges experienced by higher education fundraising professionals include donor acquisition and hiring and retaining fundraising staff members. While there is not a one-size-fits all solution for all higher education institutions, we recommend supporting a culture of philanthropy and creating a donor retention plan for 2023.

Most higher education fundraising offices track the number of proposals and solicitations (75%), followed by the number of fundraising visits (68%). Though donor acquisition is considered a top-three challenge by 50% of respondents, only 44% of fundraising operations are tracking prospect acquisition.

Looking ahead to 2023, respondents were most enthusiastic about growth in major gifts, followed by deferred (planned) gift commitments, then mid-level gifts and foundations.

The higher education sector was among the highest when reporting staff acquisition in the prior fiscal year, with 53% reporting that their staff size has or will increase.

The number of donors increased significantly for the higher education sector, with 60% reporting an increase in FY21.

Higher education institutions were among the most likely to discuss the concepts of diversity, equity and/or inclusion (DEI) in conversations with donors, with 92% reportedly doing so.​​

The data on this page was curated from a questionnaire taken by nearly 1,200 organizations during the fall of 2022 reporting on FY21 results.