Published on: March 5, 2012
DonorsÛª Million-Dollar Resource
The Million Dollar List helps philanthropists and their advisors leverage large gifts.
For philanthropists planning gifts of $1 million or more, the questions of where, when, and why to give take on great significance. Now these donors and their advisors can turn to a new resource for help: the Million Dollar List, milliondollarlist.org.
Enlarge this image to see the distribution of dollars from $1 million-plus gifts by subsector.
Researched by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, this free, searchable database offers donors and their financial advisors access to data and insights about gifts of $1 million and up. The list tracks publicly reported charitable gifts of $1 million or more by individuals, corporations, foundations, and other nonprofits since 2000 and will be updated periodically.
“The Million Dollar List is the most comprehensive resource on publicly reported gifts of this size,” says Patrick M. Rooney, the Center’s executive director. “One million dollars is a significant giving threshold for donors, so gaining a clear picture of where and how these gifts are made is an important step forward in the study of philanthropy.”
Previously, very little was known about these gifts, which have a unique ability to change lives and communities. Now, Rooney says, “donors and their advisors can see which organizations with causes matching their interests are receiving large gifts, where their peers are giving, and where there may be needs.”
Inform and Connect
The Million Dollar List can help foster collaboration around gifts and among donors, and helps donors and their advisors make informed and strategic decisions about giving.
Advisors can aid donors by searching for information on gifts by geography, dollar amount, type of charity, individual donor, organization name, or other customizable criteria.
Let’s say a couple in Colorado is concerned about the local environment, and they visit their financial advisor for advice. Using the Million Dollar List, the three of them could view million-dollar gifts to environmental causes in Colorado, which could give them a sense of whether the cause needs funding.
They could see the top recipient organizations, which might inspire the couple either to learn more about those organizations or to find other organizations to which they could make the first million-dollar gift.
They could also find out which other donors are working to improve the environment in Colorado, which could provide reassurance, raise a red flag, or prompt the discussion of pooling their gift with others for greater leverage.
Ellen Remmer, president of The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI), a leading nonprofit that advises donors on their giving, says, “The Million Dollar List lets donors scan the charitable landscape to see where there are gaps in funding by sector or location, to find philanthropic partners, and to discover where they can magnify their impact. It helps them develop their philanthropic style and strategy.”
The website, which is made possible by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, also reveals trends and provides donors and advisors with context for these gifts.
For example, a higher percentage of individuals give “mega-gifts” of $50 million-plus than do corporations or foundations. However, about 70 percent of gifts from individuals were from people who made just one gift of $1 million or more, and nearly half of those made a single gift of less than $2 million.
The list also shows that million-dollar-plus gifts tend to be local: 63 percent of individuals’ gifts are given to organizations in the donor’s state of primary residence. And there’s a strong correlation between individuals’ million-dollar gifts and the stock market, with changes in the number of gifts and in the dollar amount of gifts closely following stock market trends.
A Catalyst for Transparency
“As donors get more engaged with their giving, they realize the power of being visible,” Remmer says. “They see themselves as leaders, as part of the solution they’re trying to accomplish with their giving—and with that they realize they have a role to play in influencing others. It’s important for them to stand up and be counted.”
The Million Dollar List offers a detailed look into an area of philanthropy that, until recently, was not well documented or understood. The more gifts that are included in the list, the more helpful it will become.
“Donors increasingly value transparency in philanthropy and are driving that trend,” says Una Osili, director of research at the Center on Philanthropy. “By providing information about their gifts to the Million Dollar List, they will encourage greater transparency among all those involved in charitable giving, increase opportunities to connect with other donors, and strengthen understanding of philanthropy.”