Sunny, With a Chance of $100 Million: The Forecast for Major Gifts

By Frederic J. “Rick” Happy of member firm CCS

My colleagues at CCS are frequently called upon to speak about the impact of the economy on philanthropy. We underscore the idea that philanthropy in the United States is incredibly resilient. During the recession and downturn, we advised our clients to be flexible and persistent; to continue communication and outreach and to remain top of mind with donors.

But today, the outlook is much brighter.

Jobs are being created every month, unemployment is rapidly decreasing, tax cuts were extended for two more years, and the wealthiest have seen their asset bases return to Spring 2008 levels.

The recent release of The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s annual Philanthropy 50, a report on and ranking of the country’s most-generous donors, shows a year-over-year decrease in giving. However, America’s most-generous donors still gave an impressive $3.3 billion to nonprofits in 2010.

In the last three months alone, we have noted *eight publicly announced mega gifts of $100 million or more to organizations including academic medical centers, healthcare institutions and universities nationwide. To put this in perspective, there were only nine public gifts at this level in all of 2009 and seven in 2010. Click here to access The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s directory of recent gifts of $1 million or more made by individuals to charitable institutions.

Through our involvement with campaigns that have benefited from the recent uptick in mega gifts, we have come to believe that 2011 will be a year of renewed capital, endowment and major gift campaigns.

So how can your organization capitalize on this encouraging trend? CCS believes the aforementioned fundraising successes are due in large part to the creation of strategies that position organizations for greater growth in a recovery, including:

Targeted major gift requests;

  • Customized solicitation strategies;
  • Extensive prospect research;
  • New approaches to donor identification;
  • Peer comparisons and benchmarking;
  • Flexible giving programs;
  • Efficient staff training; and
  • Tailored leadership roles.

What do you think? Join the conversation.

*Gifts include: $200-million gift to USC; $150-million gift to MD Anderson; $100-million gift to Western Michigan University; $100-million gift to UCLA; $100-million gift to Mayo Clinic; $100-million gift to Ohio State; $100-million gift to Sanford Health; and $100-million gift to Teach for America.

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