When Robert King, founder of Peninsula Capital in Menlo Park, and his wife, Dorothy, wanted to give $150 million to help people in developing nations become entrepreneurs, their money went to the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.
That gift came in 2011, during a year in which Stanford University raised more than $709 million. But in 2012, Stanford really ratcheted things up, pulling in $1.03 billion, up 45.9%.
That wasn't just more than any other university in the U.S. It wasn't far from what No. 2 Harvard ($650 million) and No. 3 Yale ($544 million) raised if their funds were combined.
"Stanford University is a really powerful fundraiser," said Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
Stanford made the top 10 on the publication's recently released Philanthropy 400, an annual look at the list of what groups were most successful in raking in donations.
Stanford ranked seventh overall on that list and was tops among universities.
"They get better and better, and more people are attracted to them and want to give," Palmer said.
King is a 1960 alum of the Stanford business school, but the university has also used its strong ties to the Silicon Valley tech industry to boost donations.
A less well-known but important link is Stanford's role as one of the most highly regarded training grounds outside of Texas for oil and natural gas industry engineers.
"Those are the kind of connections that help them draw more corporate support," Palmer said.
Also high on the list was the USC, which ranked fourth among colleges and universities, raising $492 million in 2012.
UC Berkeley ranked eighth, with $411 million raised.