According to Yale Daily News, Yale University may soon experience a decline in fundraising after astronomically high rates of donations during the pandemic. Published on November 30th, the article attributes the possible future decline to market downturns.
After a six-month delay due to the pandemic, Yale launched a “For Humanity” campaign in October 2021. As Yale’s first virtual fundraising campaign, “For Humanity” allowed benefactors to participate from across the globe, allowing the school to be inclusive of more alumni and generate a greater degree of engagement. Compared to the previous in-person events that could only accommodate 600-700 people, the virtual launch event in October 2021 welcomed more than 6,000 registrants.
University President Peter Salovey said that “[t]he two years we [fundraised] on Zoom were the best two years of fundraising in the University’s history.” In 2021, $1.18 billion worth of commitments and $738.5 million cash were dedicated to Yale University. For 2022, the university received slightly less in commitments, $905.7 million, but a record number in cash: $914.6 million.
By 2026, Yale hopes to reach its goal of $7 billion, and the campaign has already reached 60 percent of this lofty goal. According to Associate Vice President for Development and Campaign Director Eugenie Gentry, COVID-19 has “changed the landscape of philanthropy.”
Yale University has drawn a correlation between macroeconomic trends and donations, observing that a stronger market means an increase in fundraising. In 2022, Yale saw the slowest year of endowment growth since 2009, most likely as a response to the recent market decline to pre-pandemic levels. Although Yale is bracing themselves for a similar drop, the university has not yet seen a decline in fundraising.
Some have explained that a delay between decision-making and market trends might be the reason for rising fundraising levels despite market downturns, as many commit to making the donation before markets decline. In the meantime, others have pointed out that the rise in fundraising can be attributed to the recent lawsuits against legacy admissions. Alumni with an incentive to keep the practice alive for their children may be giving more for Yale to preserve the tradition. This subtle pressure is nothing new: in 2021, donor pressure to control the curriculum for the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy led to the resignation of history professor Beverly Gage, who was serving as director of the program at the time. The debacle highlighted the immense sway that institutional giving—and the donors providing the gifts—have over the inner workings of the university.
Moving forward, how much power will donors hold over their respective schools as fundraising shows no signs of dropping significantly any time soon? While we can’t know definitively, what we do know is that the school, faculty, and students will continue benefiting heavily from these generous donations.