Chart of the day: Harvard donations

By Felix Salmon
September 11, 2009
Whence comes this chart:

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Well done to Jane Mendillo for increasing the transparency of the Harvard endowment, moving from a relatively terse “John Harvard letter” to a more discursive “Endowment Report”. Whence comes this chart:


At the height of the worst recession in living memory, it seems, donations to Harvard went up.

I actually called this, back in May, saying that Harvard’s alumni might be more likely to donate to a university when their donations weren’t dwarfed by endowment returns. But then the Times said that donations were correlated with endowment returns, and I thought that donations might fall. I guess there was nothing to worry about.

(Incidentally, the annual donations to Harvard, at over $1.6 billion, are now pretty much the same as the size of the entire endowment at Wellesley College, whence Mendillo came.)

Update: Wow, I really got this one wrong. As my commenters rightly point out, the chart shows donations from the endowment to the university, not donations to the university. Those did indeed fall.


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