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Stanford wins the fundraising race with new record

Date: 02/20/2013

American Public Media's Marketplace Morning Report for February 20, 2013

By Amy Scott

Despite the uncertain economy, donations are pouring in to colleges and universities. A new report from the Council for Aid to Education says college fundraisers brought in $31 billion last year -- up slightly from the year before.

Topping the list is Stanford University, which became the first to raise more than $1 billion in a single year. Stanford outraised Harvard and Yale -- and everybody else -- for the eighth year in a row, according to the council’s annual fundraising survey.

Geography helps. Silicon Valley is packed with rich people. Stanford has helped make a lot of them rich, says Bruce Flessner, a fundraising consultant with Bentz Whaley Flessner.

“Stanford’s created a lot of the wealth, and a lot of the wealth has benefited Stanford,” he says.

Venture capitalist and Stanford business school grad Robert King, for instance, gave $150 million for a new institute to promote entrepreneurship in developing countries.

Stanford is also just really good at raising money, says John Cash with consulting firm Marts & Lundy.

“They have big ideas, and very wealthy people give big gifts to support big ideas,” he says.

But Stanford is not immune to dips in the economy. During the financial crisis it had to cut about 20 percent of its fundraising staff. The budget uncertainty in Washington, D.C., could affect giving this year, says Martin Shell, Stanford's vice president for development.

“I do think donors are like markets,” Shell says. “Uncertainty is something that they abhor."

Listen to the report