INDIANAPOLIS—The number of gifts of $1 million or more given to charities by individuals fell 33 percent in the last six months of 2008 compared to the same period in 2007, according to records compiled by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.
The findings are from the Center on Philanthropy's Million Dollar List™, which tracks gifts of that amount or more reported in the news media. It is the second largest drop in individual gifts during the last half of a year to occur in the past decade. The largest drop, 35 percent, was in 2001.
The 333 gifts of $1 million or more from individuals in the second half of 2008 represents a decline from the record high of 495 such gifts made in the second half of 2007. It is also 14 percent below the 386 individual gifts given in the second half of 2006, a more typical year.
Although the number of individual gifts fell, the number of $1 million-and-up gifts from foundations in the second half of 2008 increased 10 percent from the same period a year earlier, to 551 (up from 500), while the number of corporate gifts at that level remained the same at 146.
Overall, for all of 2008, at least 2,270 gifts of $1 million or more from individuals, foundations and corporations were announced, 4 percent more than for all of 2007. The number of seven-figure-and-above gifts from foundations increased by 16 percent from 2007 to 2008. Among corporate donors, the number of such gifts increased by nearly 12 percent, to 338 in 2008. For individual donors, there was a drop of nearly 8 percent in the number of gifts of $1 million or more from 2007 to 2008. Even with the decline in gifts given, about 870 contributions of $1 million or more from individuals were announced in 2008.
Announced donations of $1 million and up from all three sources—individuals (including bequests), foundations and corporations—totaled more than $22 billion in 2008.
"The numbers for the last half of 2008 show that wealthy donors appear to be thinking very carefully about how much to give and when in this economy," said Patrick M. Rooney, Ph.D., interim executive director of the Center on Philanthropy. "The 333 $1 million-dollar-plus gifts from individual donors in the second half of 2008 demonstrates that the stock market declines and the credit crisis have slowed giving of large gifts, but have not stopped it."
While philanthropic giving in 2009 cannot be predicted, gifts of $1 million or more announced so far this year include multi-million dollar donations from individuals to universities as well as foundation grants to many different types of charities.
"To receive these large gifts in the current economic environment, charities must continue to advance their missions, maintain close relationships with donors and communicate clearly about the importance of their work," said Timothy L. Seiler, director of public service and The Fund Raising School at the Center. "One of the worst things you can do in this climate is to assume that people won’t give. They will, if you ask and if you tell them how their gifts make a difference."
About the Million Dollar List™
The Million Dollar List™, compiled by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, documents gifts of $1 million or more announced in the news media. While it is not a comprehensive record of all million-dollar-plus gifts—many gifts are not publicly announced—it is indicative of trends in giving at that level. The Center began maintaining the list at the end of 1999. Historical records are available online to Premium Services subscribers of the Center on Philanthropy.
About the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University
The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University is a leading academic center dedicated to increasing the understanding of philanthropy and improving its practice worldwide through research, teaching, public service and public affairs programs in philanthropy, fundraising, and management of nonprofit organizations. A part of the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, the Center operates program on the IUPUI and IU Bloomington campuses.