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European Research Network on Philanthropy

Giving in Evidence

Fundraising from philanthropy in European Universities

Funder: European Commission


This study  is the first to provide data gathered from universities across the European Union regarding the efforts made, and successes achieved, in fundraising from philanthropy for research. An additional output of the research is a new
database of contacts responsible for fundraising in almost 500 European universities. Results indicated that philanthropic fundraising is not, on the whole, taken seriously in Europeanuniversities. Only a very small number of institutions are raising significant sums of money from this source, and even fewer are accessing philanthropic funding to pay for research
and research-related activities. Whilst this may be disappointing for those hoping that private donors can represent an important source of funding for university-based research, it may also be interpreted in a more positive light as indicative of potentially significant untapped potential.

There are many different types of university, which affects their likelihood of realising philanthropic income as a result of investment in fundraising activities. The data demonstrates that success in fundraising is related to institutional privilege (what kind of a university it is, in terms of wealth, reputation and pre-existing relationships with different types of donors), as well as to the efforts made by universities (what the university does, in terms of fundraising activities), and environmental factors (where the university is located, in terms of the geo-political context). For this reason, we suggest that the concept of ‘accumulative advantage’ should be understood as an important factor, alongside ‘efforts’ and ‘context’ which have so far featured more prominently as key levers in the policymaking literature.