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WCU bucks national trends with upsurge in philanthropic giving, number of donors

planting day 070

Western Carolina University donors (from left) Pat and David Kaemmerling, Brenda and Bryant Kinney, and Becky Brown ’71 share a laugh while they share a meal at the third annual Planting Day, a celebration of philanthropy.

By Bill Studenc

Although charitable giving has decreased over the past year across the U.S., that is not the case for Western Carolina University, which has experienced healthy increases in the dollar amount of philanthropic donations and the number of donors.

According to findings from an annual report on philanthropy nationally, presented by researchers at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and fundraising professionals at Giving USA Foundation, total charitable giving in the U.S. dropped from $516.65 billion in 2021 to $499.33 billion in 2022, a decline of $17.32 billion. That decrease is in the wake of consecutive record-breaking years for giving nationally in 2020 and 2021.

“While overall giving in the U.S. declined by 3.4% and giving by individuals fell by 6.4% across the U.S., our WCU numbers are counter to those national trends,” said Jamie T. Raynor, vice chancellor for advancement, who recently shared unofficial, pre-audit fundraising statistics with campus leaders and leadership boards.

“Overall for the 2023 fiscal year, we saw an almost $3 million increase in total giving year over year, a 31.2% increase,” Raynor said. “To break it down, the university experienced a $1.6 million increase in cash gifts; a $1 million rise in private grants and sponsored research; and substantial movement in the number of gifts, with 2,411 more gifts processed, or a 29.5% increase, and donors, with 1,084 more donors, up 36%.”

Here's a look at WCU fundraising totals for the 2023 fiscal year, which ended June 30.

* Gifts/cash - $7,469,093.37, up from $5,857,832.69 in 2022.

* Pledges - $3,558,363.53, up from $3,213,477.85 in 2022.

* Private Grants - $1,541,469.70, up from $533,679.35 in 2022.

* Fiscal Year Total - $12,568,926.60, up from $9,577,563.25 in 2022.

The university received a total of 10,564 gifts compared to 8,153 gifts in 2022, with a total of 4,108 donors compared to 3,024 last year.

“The Division of Advancement is certainly grateful to our faculty, staff, student and volunteer board partners for their assistance in this important work throughout the 2023 fiscal year, and we are grateful daily for the real heroes – the supporters of WCU,” Raynor said.

The upsurge in philanthropic support for WCU comes as the institution is in the leadership phase of a comprehensive fundraising campaign, with university leaders building the volunteer leadership structure and developing the brand and messaging of the campaign in fiscal year 2023 as well.

This campaign is slated to run through the 2025-2026 academic year and will focus on critical priorities such as academic excellence with an emphasis on programmatic support and outside the classroom experiential learning, as well as the full student experience that includes excellence in athletics through facilities support, Raynor said.

WCU Chancellor Kelli R. Brown will share the name, brand, goal, current fundraising totals and key priorities of the campaign with the campus community at the annual August Opening Assembly to kick off the school year.

For more information on how to philanthropically support WCU priorities, visit, email or call 828-227-7124.

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