The University of Tennessee is counting its blessings after their donations are the strongest they have been in five years despite the struggling economy.
"We've been very fortunate," said Linda Davidson, the Vice Chancellor of Development and Alumni Affairs.
Davidson said they've seen a shift in the way people give. The university is receiving smaller gifts, but the money is coming from more donors than ever.
From the fiscal year 2009 to 2011, private gifts rose $9 million. The number of donors also rose from by nearly 2,000.
"The vast majority are from people who aren't in the position to give the multi million dollar gifts," said Davidson.
Donors like, Linda Tyler, who has been giving for 20 years.
"It just makes you feel good," explained Tyler.
She said while her family can't give large amounts every year, they budget what they can, no matter what.
They began by giving to her sister's scholarship fund the family started when she passed away.
"Even though we still didn't have very much money, we gave to her scholarship fund. It changed us. It was a bad thing that had a good implication. And then we just kept giving," Tyler said.
Seeing students graduate who otherwise wouldn't be able to attend school is one of the reasons they continue to give. They also have given to the College of Education, Engineering, and the UT Band.
Davidson believes private dollars are more important than ever with state funding continually decreasing.
Davidson said more of the donations go toward academics than athletics.