U.S. $1 Million Gifts Spike $3 Billion

November 4, 2014       Patrick Sullivan      

Major donors in seven regions around the world gave $26.3 billion in gifts of $1 million or more in 2013. The majority of the gifts and the dollars came from the United States, with 1,173 out of 1,995 gifts, totaling $16.92 billion. Though the number of major gifts coming from the U.S. was down compared to 2012, the total increased by $3 billion.

These are some results from the Million Dollar Donors Report (MDDR), produced by the U.K.-based bank Coutts in conjunction with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy in Indianapolis, Ind. This year’s report is the second that analyzed international gifts. In prior years Coutts produced a Million Pound Donors Report focused on U.K. donors, and the Lilly Family School compiled the Million Dollar List.

“While philanthropy is a lagging economic indicator, in the U.S., we are seeing an increase in the total value of $1 million-plus gifts, even though the number of donors declined compared to 2012,” said Una Osili, Ph.D., director of research at the Lilly Family School. “The average size of gifts at this level rose 45 percent last year, suggesting that ultra high net worth donors may be seeing their financial fortunes recover more quickly than those of other wealthy donors.”

Worldwide, individuals gave 45 percent of the total dollar amount. Individuals gave the highest percentage of dollars in the U.S. and in Russia. Foundations gave the most in the U.K. and Hong Kong, while corporations were the biggest source of large gifts in China, the Middle East and Singapore.

In the U.S., 60 percent of million-dollar plus gifts came from individuals, totaling $10.08 billion. Foundations gave 35 percent of the total value, or $5.93 billion, with corporations contributing 5 percent, $910 million. The West and the Midwest were the most generous regions, contributing 38 percent and 26 percent of the total, followed by the Northeast at 17 percent and 16 percent for the South. The remaining 3 percent came from unknown locales.

Last year was the best year since 2008 — before the Great Recession really took hold — for large gifts in the United States. Some $21.73 billion was donated in the form of million-dollar-plus gifts in 2008. While nearly $3 billion more in large gifts was donated last year compared to 2012, the total came from 235 fewer gifts.

Higher education was the top recipient in four of the seven regions studied: the United Kingdom, the U.S., Hong Kong and Singapore. It was the second most popular destination in Russia and China. In the last region studied — the Middle East GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — the top cause was disaster relief.

Foundations were another popular destination: $4.78 billion, or 18.2 percent was given to foundations in 2013. In the U.S., foundations received $2.03 billion worth of $1 million-plus gifts, 12 percent of the 2013 total from the U.S.

Overseas donations increased significantly in 2013, spurred in part by a $1.8 billion gift from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the World Health Organization. Donations overseas made up almost 16 percent of the total dollar amount worldwide. In the Middle East, 95 percent of large donation dollars were sent outside the region, and in the U.S., 29 donations totaling $2.14 billion, including the Gates Foundation gift, went beyond American borders.

As the total number of donations from the U.S. fell, so too did the number of organizations receiving the donations in 2013: 805 organizations compared to 986 in 2012. Some 82 percent, or 657 organizations, received only one million-dollar-plus donation. Receiving 11 such gifts was the University of Texas at Austin, which closed a $3 billion campaign this past August.