Record Year of Philanthropic Support for Research, Student Support, Teaching and Learning

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Record giving this past fiscal year supports a range of innovative academic and scholarship programs across the university.

More than 94,800 donors gave $519 million in gifts in fiscal year 2020, to support financial aid, research, faculty support, education, patient care, campus transformations, and the student experience at Duke. This marks the second-highest fundraising total in Duke history, and the fifth consecutive in which the university received more than $500 million in philanthropic support.

“In a year like no other, our extraordinary donors provided unprecedented support,” said Duke President Vincent E. Price. “Their generosity enabled Duke to address immediate needs that arose from COVID-19 and provided essential gifts to further discovery, teaching and learning, and service to our local and global community.”

Gifts and grants for research totaled $197 million, representing the largest funded area of private philanthropy. Donors also contributed to financial aid for undergraduate and graduate students ($115 million); student experience and programming support ($104 million); faculty excellence in research and teaching ($33 million); and transforming the campus through new construction and facility renovations ($16 million).

“The support of our alumni, parents, friends, and patients have ensured that Duke receives vital funds to maintain momentum and foster our vibrant university, even in the event of a global crisis,” said David L. Kennedy, vice president for alumni affairs and development. “These contributions of time, talent and resources are even more meaningful at critical times such as the present.”

The 2020 Duke Annual Impact Report features stories about the power of philanthropic support to advance Duke. Some of the year’s highlights include:


To address the safety of Duke health care providers, staff, faculty, students and the public, Duke and donors partnered together to give a total of nearly $11 million to support three COVID-19 philanthropic initiatives. The three COVID-19 relief fund areas include: the Duke Student Assistance Fund to help alleviate the burden of unexpected expenses on students; the Duke Health COVID-19 Response Fund to address the needs of those impacted by the virus and accelerate coronavirus research; and the Duke-Durham Fund to provide assistance to local nonprofits, small businesses and community-based organizations.

Additionally, the State of North Carolina enacted the 2020 COVID-19 Recovery Act, a law directing $15 million in funding to the Duke Human Vaccine Institute to develop preventative vaccines to provide protection against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The funds are not counted in the university’s current fundraising totals.


An historic distribution of $261 million from the Lord Foundation of North Carolina supported science and technology education and research as well as financial aid for undergraduate students, including those from Trinity College of Arts & Sciences or the Pratt School of Engineering, or pursuing a degree at the Sanford School of Public Policy or the Nicholas School of the Environment. This distribution represents the proceeds of sale of LORD Corporation stock previously given by Thomas Lord to Duke through the Lord Foundation. While this is not counted in the university’s current fundraising totals, it does represent the largest-single distribution of funds to Duke for academic purposes since the founding of the modern university in 1924.   


A $3 million gift from Milledge A. Hart III and Linda W. Hart will fund two professorships as Hart Leadership Professors of the Practice in the Sanford School of Public Policy. The additional core faculty will further strengthen the Hart Leadership Program to develop and prepare undergraduate students for careers in public life.


A $5 million gift from the Mary Alice Fortin Foundation will support Duke’s Bass Connections program, a university-wide initiative that brings together undergraduate and graduate students from all schools and units to work alongside faculty on research teams addressing urgent issues.


A $20 million gift from the Grainger Family Descendants Fund aims to bolster world-renowned faculty research and education at the Nicholas School of the Environment to address climate change and solve the most pressing environmental challenges confronting society.


 A $12 million grant from The Duke Endowment, a private foundation based in Charlotte, N.C., will enhance the Duke Divinity School’s Christian ministry by creating new master of divinity scholarships for prospective pastors, provide fellowship support to strengthen the doctor of theology program, and support lifelong learning for pastors.

This fiscal year also set a new record of giving to the Annual Fund. More than 51,700 alumni, parents, students, faculty, staff and friends gave more than $41 million in flexible support to Duke’s 16 Annual Fund designations. The Annual Fund helps support students and faculty, financial aid and fellowships, and educational programs for all of Duke’s undergraduate, graduate and professional schools. It also supports Duke Chapel, Duke Libraries, Duke Marine Lab, Nasher Museum of Art and the Sarah P. Duke Gardens.

The total includes cash gifts from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020, and does not include pledges for future support or government contracts. Universities and colleges report cash totals to the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) for its Voluntary Support of Education survey. This reflects immediate cash flow derived from private support, including outright gifts, grants, and payments on existing pledges, and best represents fundraising activity in fiscal year 2020.  

TAGS: Gift Announcement