Advancement Blog

Should you be worried about alumni giving in an election year?

by Julie Solomon

Election years create a lot of noise and plenty of solicitations through every conceivable channel. Your alumni are not immune to this, and many are being bombarded right now by requests for donations to candidates and their PACs.

We took a look at historical data across all our partner institutions to get more insight on whether election years are bad news for university fundraising.

Political Giving 3

The good news is that higher education is still experiencing donor growth during presidential election years—it’s just slower growth compared to non-election years. In fact, the growth rate of donors by year is 2.28% during a presidential election year, which is little more than half the average growth rate in a non-election year.

Based on the data, we do see that some donors are choosing to focus their dollars on political causes and ignoring their alma mater. While institutions may be picking up slightly fewer donors, the donors who ARE opening their pocketbooks in election years are giving higher amounts on average.

Adjusted for inflation, the average gift (sub-$5k) to universities is $218 in an election year compared to $213 in a non-election year. That’s not a dramatic difference, but one that adds up when viewed across the landscape of higher education.

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The historical data of alumni giving in election years teaches us that the noise created by presidential campaigns is not a reason to panic about how your annual fund will fare.

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