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Trends in million-dollar giving

Published:  06/13/2013

Originally published in the June 13, 2013 AHP Connect

In early December 2011, the Torrance, Calif., Daily Breeze headlined a trio of donations made to the Torrance Memorial Medical Center totaling $13.5 million. The largest gift was for $11.5 million from a local-area couple. The second, for $1 million, came from the medical center’s auxiliary group and the third, also for $1 million, came from another local family who three years earlier had made a $13 million gift to Torrance Memorial.1

As noteworthy as these examples of generosity were, they were far from unique. Indeed, 182 gifts of $1 million or more were made to health organizations in the United States in 2011— amounting to more than $1.3 billion—according to a recent study published by Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy,2 based on data from the school’s Million Dollar List of philanthropic donations.3

A decade of million-dollar gifts

The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy study looks at the years 2000-2011 for 13 categories of recipient organizations, including health organizations.4 It broadly examines who gives and who receives donations of $1 million or more, as well as the impact of such economic factors as recessions, the ups and downs of the S&P 500, swings in GDP, personal consumption expenditures and unemployment rates. It looks at five types of donors: individuals, foundations, corporations, bequests and “other groups.”

The study found that over the years from 2000-2011, some 950 U.S. health organizations received 1,670 million-dollar-plus donations. This figure represents 8 percent of all such gifts tracked by the Million Dollar List for those years. The dollar value comes to $15 billion.5 Foundations and individual donors accounted for most of the million-dollar-plus gifts to health organizations, as well as the largest dollar amounts. Corporations and corporate foundations donated 13 percent of all such gifts, representing 6 percent of the dollar amount. Both the dollar amount and the number of such gifts were highest in 2007, when 218 million-dollar-plus donations were made, totaling $2.7 billion.6

In what may come as a surprise to the many health care development professionals who have experienced challenging recession and post-recession years, the Philanthropy School
analysts did not find significant ties between million-dollar-plus giving to health organizations and the five economic influences they considered. Most of the other categories of recipients saw these donations fluctuate with one to four of these factors at levels that were statistically significant.7

Local loyalty

What will not surprise health care development professionals is that, “...roughly 70 percent of [million-dollar-plus] gifts to health organizations (in both the number and the dollar amount) stayed within the donor’s home state or geographic region”8—a finding that generally held true for foundation gifts, donations from individuals and gifts from corporations. This pattern held true for health organizations more so than for most other categories of recipients, although the pull of local loyalty was strong for most of them.

Some important lessons learned from The Decade of Million-Dollar Gifts were summed up by Robert Kissane, president of the global consulting and management firm CCS that is closely affiliated with Indiana University’s philanthropy studies school: “The opportunity to strengthen one’s community can be highly attractive to potential donors. Nonprofit organizations that effectively communicate potential impact and seek out the right local donors may experience transformational gifts. Thoughtful cultivation and stewardship of these donors can often lead to life-long philanthropic partners and community-based advocates as well as influence peer giving within the community.”9

1 Evans, Melissa, “Torrance Memorial receives largest donation, $13.5 million, in its
history,” The Daily Breeze, Torrance, Calif., Dec. 5, 2011.
2 A Decade of Million-Dollar Gifts, Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Indiana University, April 2013. Under the study’s grouping of recipients, health organizations “....include hospitals and medical-care facilities; institutions providing support for diseases, disorders, mental health or crisis intervention; and organizations offering medical services, research or advocacy. It is important to note that university-affiliated health organizations are included in another category, higher education.” (p. 53).
3 See “Million Dollar List: Scaling Philanthropy” at www.milliondollarlist.org.
4 The categories of recipient organizations, listed in order of the number of $1 million plus gifts received from 2000 through 2011, are: Higher Education; Public-Society Benefit; Health; Human Services; Arts, Culture and Humanities; Education (other than higher education); Overseas, International, Environmental, Foundations, Government, Religion and Various.
5 A Decade of Million-Dollar Gifts, p. 14.
6 Ibid., p. 30f.
7 Ibid., Appendix, p. 28f.
8 Ibid., p. 31
9 “The Million Dollar Gifts Next Door,” news release, Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, April 17, 2013.

NEWS  /02/14/19
Here are a few highlights of the AHP Salary Report, which examines salary levels in the United States and Canada for 21 career categories in the field of health care philanthropy.
NEWS  /01/02/19
The Report on Giving is a yearly survey project that the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy conducts to collect data on health care-related philanthropic activities.
NEWS  /12/11/15
The following article is based on an AHP webinar, “Trends in annual giving: Practical approaches to meeting your institution’s and donor’s needs

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