ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

Intelligent Donor’s Guide Executive Summary

April 2011

Much has happened in the world of college giving since the American Council of Trustees and Alumni first published this guide in 1998. There have been great philanthropic successes in the academic world, and there have also been some bumps in the road. It's clear that generous, directed giving remains critically important to the future of American higher education. American colleges and universities have long been acknowledged to be the best in the world. Students from around the globe flock to the United States for undergraduate and postgraduate study. But the excellence of our academic institutions is not guaranteed. In many places, graduation rates are low, learning outcomes are weak, and college tuition is skyrocketing, even as administrative costs continue to grow. Public confidence in higher education has been badly shaken. Our nation’s ability to compete successfully in the global marketplace demands an educational system that is second to none in efficiency and academic standards. Intelligent giving is the key to maintaining our strengths and remedying our weaknesses.

As appropriations for higher education decline in many states, institutions will increasingly rely on informed philanthropy. In fiscal year 2009, foundations provided nearly 30 percent of charitable contributions to higher education, while alumni donated over $7 billion. More than ever before, conscientious donors are learning the important role they can play in providing a rich liberal arts education. And they are discovering how to ensure that their philanthropic dollars are not wasted, squandered, or funneled into ineffective programs. Through creative giving and careful stewardship, they are finding ways to guarantee that every dollar they give supports and sustains academic excellence. As this guide explains, donors have unique opportunities today to inform and strengthen higher education.

The second edition of The Intelligent Donor’s Guide to College Giving offers straightforward suggestions and helpful resources for donors' consideration. We’ve updated our case studies of intelligent giving, and we’ve added profiles of exemplary academic programs that would never have been founded without generous gifts. In this edition, we also share some of the lessons we’ve learned about intelligent college giving in the decade since the guide was first published.

We at the American Council of Trustees and Alumni recognize how truly valuable principled giving is to higher education and how important it is to build productive and respectful relationships between donors and grantees. We sincerely hope this guide will help do so.