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New report on philanthropic funding within European universities

Giving in Evidence: Fundraising from Philanthropy in European Universities is a newly released report commissioned by Directorate-General for Research and Innovation. Using data gathered from a survey completed by 164 research-based universities in 24 of the 27 EU member states, the study duly examines the scope of European universities’ philanthropy-derived funding (i.e. monetary contributions from foundations, trusts, alumni, corporations, wealthy individuals, etc.). Among the key findings, 81% of the responding institutions participate in philanthropic fundraising activities in some form. Moreover, those institutions that most actively and aggressively engage in fundraising are almost universally those which already demonstrate a degree of institutional privilege, or what the report terms “accumulative advantage”. In other words, pre-existing philanthropic connections and networks yield greater access to funders and enhance abilities to garner third-party funding. Such income is mainly used to fund new research projects, doctoral programmes and scholarships, and individual research.

In addition, the report notes the diversity and complexity of philanthropic funding across the European landscape – with greater concentration of philanthropic funding in universities located in Northern and Northwest Europe and those within countries with liberal social welfare systems. Nonetheless, the study finds that European universities have less than desirable rates of establishing formal policies and utilising effective methods to maintain and expand fundraising:

  • 51% of the respondents had a formal fundraising policy;
  • 32% lacked any type of fundraising reporting system and
  • 51% used a database as a means to record and manage donor activities.
Whilst dissuading stakeholders from seeking out “magic bullet” solutions, the report concludes with ten recommendations. Among these figure the need to allow for differential tax breaks to encourage giving for research; a call to “promote a culture of giving across the European Union”; the need to make mandatory reporting on philanthropy in the financial reports of universities; the importance of various mapping exercises, such as the “untapped philanthropic potential” for European universities; and better comparative data on the experience of philanthropy within non-elite institutions.

European Commission