For the past ten years, the NatCen Social Research has produced an annual Survey Report for Philanthropic Support for UK Higher Education. They work in collaboration with the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), and the Ross Group of higher education Development Directors. 143 institutions participated in the 2011/12 Survey, a response rate of 87% across the UK higher education institution (HEI) sector.
The participating institutions are required to complete an extensive Excel spreadsheet, providing detailed data on all aspects of their charitable giving, from their own costs through to the breakdown of all income received. Their participation in this process is no longer mandatory, so why is there still such a high response rate? The answer must be that institutions believe that the Survey is vitally important both for their own work, and for the sector as a whole.
The Survey has two key, inter-related functions – benchmarking and advocacy.
As an advocacy tool, the Survey can be used to show that:
- The sector raised an all-time high of £774 million in new funds in 2011/12
- The sector engages with 8.8 million alumni, of whom 169,000 made a gift in 2011/12
- The participating institutions employed 1,161 fundraising staff
This demonstrates the scale and impact of fundraising across the higher education institutions. Their income generation figure is high, but it is also possible to see that this figure is only achieved with good levels of staff reaching out to huge numbers of people.
The sector spent a median of 36p for every £1 raised in 2011/12, an increase in the median of 22p in 2010/11. This ‘invest to earn’ ration is crucial to understanding how to make fundraising work within organisations – too often in arts organisations we are still seeing management cutting fundraising resources whilst increasing fundraising targets.
However, for me its value lies particularly in its benchmarking across different kinds of institution groupings. This demonstrates the wide variations across the sector, from those categorised as having elite, established, moderate or emerging fundraising programmes, through to a fragile fundraising programme category.
The differences between these groups are quite stark.
The two universities with elite fundraising programmes, identified as Oxford and Cambridge, had between them 61,514 alumni making donations in 2011/12. The six universities with fragile fundraising programmes had 53 alumni making donations between them in the same year.
The median cost per pound raised for the ‘elite’ institutions was 10p. The median cost for the 89 newer ‘emerging’ fundraising programmes was 63p per round raised. The median cost for ‘fragile’ institutions was £21.17 per pound raised – not only did this group not make a profit from their investment in fundraising, but the cost to them was substantial.
However, when one looks at the numbers of fundraising staff employed, we find 310 staff across the two ‘elite’ institutions as opposed to one member of staff across the six ‘fragile’ institutions. The average number of fundraising staff for an ‘elite’ institution is 155, which drops sharply down to 27 for an ‘established’ funding programme. This again emphasises the correlation between staff resources, reach, and impact. It is perhaps no surprise that the University of Oxford announced in March 2012 that they had passed their original campaign target of £1.25 billion.
This Survey demonstrates both the exceptional philanthropic achievements of the two elite universities, and the hard struggle for some of the newer institutions to begin their fundraising activity. The fact that the Survey has shown its findings by groupings means that all institutions can both benchmark against their own group and use evidence from the ‘next tier level’ group to help set future strategy and advocate internally for further resources. The Survey emphasises that fundraising income absolutely depends upon investment. The institutions increased fundraising staff during a period of economic downturn because they had the evidence to demonstrate that, without that investment, they would not be able to generate the income they needed.
Having access to this kind of evidence would have a transformational effect on the arts and cultural sector. Rather than relying on lots of patchy information often relating to single organisations or small clusters, the sector as a whole would be able to demonstrate it collective fundraising impact and, more importantly, have more quality data and information to help them increase their philanthropic income. Fundraising would cease to become the ’nice to have’ part of income generation, and become recognised as a core aspect of all organisations’ activity.
What do you think? Should the Arts be moving towards a Ross – model?