Million-dollar donors live nearby

Donors who make gifts of $1 million or more tend to live near the charities they support, a new study says.

Sixty percent of donors who made gifts at that level between 2000 and 2011 lived in the same state or geographic region as the nonprofit or foundation that received the gift, says A Decade of Million-Dollar Gifts, a study from consulting firm CCS and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Forty-seven percent of gifts at that level and 52 percent of their total dollar amount came from donors living in the same state as the charities they supported, says the study, which analyzed data from the Million Dollar List, the School of Philanthropy’s searchable online database of over 68,000 publicly announced gifts.

“The opportunity to strengthen one’s community can be highly attractive to potential donors,” Robert Kissane, president of CCS, says in a statement. 

“Nonprofit organizations that effectively communicate potential impact and seek out the right local donors may experience transformational gifts,” he says. “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.”

Donors in the same state accounted for over half the gifts of $1 million or more to health nonprofits; arts, culture and humanities organizations; higher education institutions; foundations; and government agencies.

And donors in the same region accounted for two-thirds of gifts at that level to those types of organizations.

Foundations and higher education institutions each received roughly one-third of the total dollar value of gifts at that level, with the remaining dollars split about evenly among other types of organizations and no subsector getting more than 10 percent of publicly announced gifts of $1 million or more.

“Contrary to conventional wisdom, organizations of any type can attract million-dollar gifts,” Una Osili, director of research at the School of Philanthropy, says in a statement. “Donors at this level are motivated to give to a variety of organizations and causes.”

Individuals and foundations are the main source of publicly announced gifts at that level.

Roughly one-third of those gifts made between 2000 and 2011, representing half the total dollar amount of gifts at that level, came from gifts made by living individuals.

Including bequests, individuals contributed 40 percent of gifts at that level and 65 percent of the total dollar amount.

Foundations made 43 percent of gifts of $1 million or more, account for 25 percent of the total dollar value of those gifts.

Todd Cohen

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