STATE COLLEGE — The number of Penn State donors — both graduates and non-alumni — is up over last year, but overall commitments have slumped.
The university, which is in the middle of a $2 billion fundraising campaign, released its report for the 2011-12 fiscal year Monday. So far, the university has raised close to $1.6 billion, or 80 percent, of the goal. The campaign will continue until June 2014.
Senior Vice President for Development Rod Kirsch said the office is trying to stay the course — “stick to our knitting” — as the university works to recover from the unprecedented child sex abuse scandal involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky sits in jail, awaiting sentencing, while leaked emails suggest former Penn State administrators and Joe Paterno may have been involved in a cover-up.
“We need to increase the level of activity,” Kirsch said. “We need to continue to engage alumni and answer their questions the best we can as we have answers for them. We’re not changing the goals of the campaign.”
The university received $208.7 million in 2011-12, the second-best year for giving in its history.
The campaign report comes as the community is waiting for the release of the findings from Louis Freeh, the former FBI director Penn State trustees commissioned to study the university’s response to the Sandusky scandal and whether there was a cover-up.
A recent survey of alumni by the university found that 58 percent disapproved of all or most of the handling of Paterno. Another 31 percent said some of the university’s moves were right, and some were wrong. Only 11 percent approved of all or most of how the university responded. That included firing him as coach and announcing the decision at a nighttime news conference.
Aside from 2010-11 when the university received a large gift from Terry Pegula for the new ice arena that is under construction, the money the university received in 2011-12 is up from previous years.
Dale Hoffman, president of the Alumni Association’s Centre County chapter, said based on the alumni he talked to, more graduates were giving money “to show support for Penn State as a university and an educational institution.”
He said: “We’re all proud of our university. We’re not going to let anybody take away our pride. We’re not going to be made part of the scandal. We weren’t part of it.”
However, total commitments are down, not only from last year — the year of the Pegula pledge — but from past years. Commitments include outright gifts and future pledges.
Donors pledged $223.7 million in the fiscal year that just ended, compared with $353.3 million in 2010-11 and $273.8 million in 2009-10.
Kirsch pointed to a major fundraising effort in 2010-11 as a factor in the decline in pledges in 2011-12. He said after the Pegulas made their pledge, university development set a goal of raising more that year than had been raised in the university’s entire first campaign — $352 million.
Kirsch said there were several other factors, including the events that unfolded, which cost the development office time.
“We’ll try to make up some of that as the campaign finishes out,” he said.
The university received $208.7 million in 2011-12, compared with $203.4 million in 2009-10. In 2010-11, the university received $274.8 million, including $44 million for the ice arena. The Pegulas initially pledged $88 million, but later upped that gift to $102 million, including $13 million for scholarships.
According to the university, it is not uncommon to see lower commitment numbers toward the end of campaigns.
The “For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students” is the largest fundraising effort the university has undertaken. A key part of it is raising money to support students, including scholarships.
Other campaign highlights include:
— Faculty and staff have pledged $46.7 million so far, more than the total employee goal of $43 million.
— Alumni gave $70.9 million in 2011-12 compared with $131.4 million in 2010-11 and $65 million in 2009-10.
— The number of alumni donors grew from 74,450 in 2010-11 to 75,593, after having declined from 77,658 in 2008-09.
— The total number of donors also grew, from 183,712 in 2010-11 to 191,712 in 2011-12.
Anne Danahy can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @AnneDanahy.