January 20, 2015

The Return of the Charitable Mega-Gift

Author National Philanthropic Trust

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that the top 10 largest charitable gifts in 2014 totaled $3.3 billion—almost matching the prior year’s $3.4 billion.  On the list, the largest gift was a $1 billion bequest which established a private foundation and the “smallest” was $110 million to a medical college. Even more notable, the amount of $1 million+ charitable gifts totaled almost $11 billion in 2014, a substantial 22% jump from a $9 billion total in 2013.

This majors gift data indicates that the philanthropic “mega-gift” is making a comeback. It may take some time to return to pre-recession levels, when the 10 biggest gifts exceeded $4 billion. We know that the stock market directly impacts charitable giving. If the market continues to make strong gains, it is reasonable to assume we will see more mega-gifts—perhaps more than ever before.

Charitable mega-gifts can be transformative. They can change a charitable organization’s entire program strategy or catalyze a new stage of growth. Most often, mega-gifts are the result of extensive cultivation. The charity likely has a long relationship—and many long conversations—with the donor.

If this trend continues, fundraisers need to better understand how to cultivate these donors. Charitable organizations need to be prepared to put these sacred mega-gifts to the highest and best possible use for their mission.