U Sees Increase in Philanthropic Donations


(Graphic by Ivy Smith)

(Graphic by Ivy Smith)
(Graphic by Ivy Smith)

During the recent recession and with recent campaigning by the university, donations to the U have exceeded expectations. And this sense of charity was mimicked by the entire state as well.
An analysis from philanthropy.com found that out of the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas, Salt Lake City gave the most to charity — 5.4 percent of its collective income. Out of the 50 states, Utah gave the most, giving 6.56 percent of its income to charity.
Utah’s philanthropic giving was starkly divided along economic lines, also according to the study. People making under $25,000 a year in Utah gave nearly 13.5 percent of their incomes to charity — an estimated 60 million dollars. The percentage slowly declined as the amount of money made increased, with people making $200,000 or more giving 6.05 percent of their incomes — slightly more than an estimated billion dollars.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy, a newspaper dedicated to the world of nonprofit, notes that Salt Lake City “owes its high giving rate in part to the heavy presence of Mormons,” who are asked to give 10 percent of their income to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This donation, called tithing, can be listed as an itemized charitable deduction for tax purposes.
Where Utah’s charity dollars went was also divided by income. Stacy Palmer, The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s editor, wrote that higher income brackets are more likely to give to universities and the arts than social programs. Lower brackets are more likely to give to social programs, such as homeless shelters, soup kitchens or the United Way.
Both trends — the wealthy giving to arts and the poor giving a larger percentage of their income — held true in all states where donors to the U reside. According to data from the U, more than 89,000 donors to the university lived in Utah, followed by California with nearly 5,800 and then Idaho with over 3,200.
Fred Esplin, vice president for institutional advancement, said gifts under $100 to the U have tripled since 2006. Although it’s likely that people with low incomes gave under $100, the actual income brackets of donors are not asked when collecting gifts.
Because the U doesn’t track the income brackets of its donors, nationwide trends could still be true of individual donors or foundations. Representatives from two of the U’s largest contributors, the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation and the Dumke and Duke Foundation, were unavailable for comment.
Keith Sullivan, a junior in electronic arts and engineering, said the trend can be explained by daily circumstances.
“I’m not a person to tell another person [how] to use their money, but I guess it shows where some peoples’ hearts are,” he said. “People just donate to the thing that affects their life the most … I’m trying to say it’s more of just a human trait to want to help out the problem you see every day.”
Donation totals, regardless of size, have also increased since 2006, when the U began its donation campaign called “Together We Reached.” In 2005, the U raised nearly $140 million in donations. After the campaign began, donations hovered around $160 million through 2010. By 2012, donations totaled nearly $190 million.
Brandon Nemelka, a senior in philosophy, said The Chronicle of Philanthropy is asking the wrong questions.
“We can sit here and ask whether we should give to the Road Home or to the U all day, but in the end it’s a false question,” he said. “It shouldn’t have to be a choice whether we give people food or give people education. We need more radical change, some sort of socialism.”
Overall, the U has generated more than $1.5 billion since 2006. Most of that money has gone to research and facilities, spending around $937 million in those two areas, according to the “Together We Reached” campaign.
Additionally, $274 million went to public programs, $204 million went to academic support, $131 million went to scholarships and $65 million went to faculty and staff support. Libraries and “other” expenses made up the rest.
Sullivan said these numbers are reassuring but not altogether promising.
“[It shows] they actually are putting money back into the U,” he said. “[But] the general feeling I get from the campus is that whenever money is involved, whether it’s with the university or at the food court or for parking or whatever, I feel like they’re trying to squeeze as much money out of you as possible. It’s a business.”
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