Towards the end of every calendar year, I start to get excited about the Million Dollar Donors Report, which analyzes the number, size and recipients of gifts of $1 million or more given by individuals, foundations and corporations in the United States and abroad.

The 2014 report, released just last week, is compiled by Coutts in association with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, with other generous funding by numerous international foundations.

If you are seeking major gifts of any size or nature, especially a mega-gift of a million dollars or more, you should read this report every year.

Here’s a quick rundown of the 2014 report:

The Good News

The number of million dollar gifts, as well as the total dollars donated in this manner, increased worldwide as well as in the United States. The total number of million dollar gifts was 1,995 resulting in a total amount donated of 26.3 billion dollars!

Of those 1,995 donors 59% of them were in the United States. This is not a surprise, but you might be surprised by the success of the other countries researched.


Higher Education Reigns Supreme

Most professional fundraisers will not be surprised to see that higher education garnered 34% of the total dollars. The chart below shows just how big of a lead higher education has over other types of causes:


The research report overview so aptly states why this might be the case.

“… education is seen by many major philanthropists as the key to the
success of both individuals and countries. Universities also embrace
a wide variety of activities and subjects and so offer a wide appeal to
donors… On a more practical level, universities are generally very
sizeable and well-established institutions that can easily absorb
donations of $1M or more.”

Foundations Place Second For Good Reasons

Different types of foundations have become attractive to major donors as a means to “banking” such mega gifts. What is meant, by banking, is the ability to properly distribute large sums of money across multiple charities with the help of professional foundation staff.

This is true for both developing as well as well established countries. The super rich have literally entered into a new age of philanthropy. This article by the same name spells out how such foundations are coming into play.

In fact, based upon the mega gifts the Gates Foundation has now become the largest charitable foundation in the world! Here are the details from The Economist website.

This trend will most likely continue in even larger dimensions in the future.

The KEY Takeaway For Every Major Gift Fundraiser

My favorite portion of the entire report is the case study section comprised of actual donor interviews. Within this section, the inner feelings of the philanthropists emerge.

Here is one of them about an UK philanthropist Sarah Butler-Sloss.

Her final piece of advice is a perfect lead in to key takeaway below about the power of relationship building. Here is that advice below::

Two final pieces of advice I would share: to meet the leaders of the organisations you’re considering funding, to make sure that they are committed, visionary and practical in delivering their vision and that you can trust them to do what they say they are going to do; and to never think you know best and always listen to what’s happening on the ground. Our failures have happened when we have not followed that advice!

The report refers to the key takeaway by listing what powers major gift philanthropy. Such game changing philanthropy is driven by individual values, passions, interests or visions for a better future.

We, as fundraisers, can only bring the above items to the forefront by creating and maintaining close personal relationships! This is even the case with foundation giving, as so precisely described by Sarah.

We all know that very few of the close relationships we build, as fundraisers, will lead to million dollar or higher major gifts. However, if it leads to one mega-gift that can be a game changer for your mission, is it not worth the effort?

Be sure to download the 2014 Million Dollar Donors Report today!

Major gift fundraising

Jay Love

Jay Love

Co-Founder & Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang
A 30+ veteran of the nonprofit software industry, Jay Love co-founded Bloomerang in 2012. Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth. Prior to starting eTapestry, Jay served 14 years as President and CEO of Master Software Corporation. MSC provided a widely used family of database products for the non-profit sector called Fund-Master. He currently serves on the board of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and is the past AFP Ethics Committee Chairman. Jay is also the author of Stay Together: How to Encourage a Lifetime of Donor Loyalty.