Individuals Make Fewer $1-Million Gifts; Grant Makers Help Offset Decline
Feb. 25, 2009, The Chronicle of Philanthropy — Charitable gifts of $1-million or more from individual donors fell by 33 percent in the last half of 2008 compared with the same period in 2007, according to a new analysis of big gifts by researchers at the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy.
A total of 333 gifts of at least $1-million were made in final six months of last year, down from a record of 495 gifts of that size in the same months of 2007. It was the largest half-year drop in individual gifts of $1-million or more since the center began tracking donations of that size in 2001, another recessionary year. Such gfits declined by 35 percent in 2001.
“I was surprised that the decrease was not larger” last year, said Melissa Brown, the center’s associate director of research who analyzed the data.
The drop in individual gifts of $1-million or more, she noted, lags the start of the recession, not showing up as a double-digit decline until later in 2008. When all 12 months of last year were compared with the 2007 calendar year, the decline was a much smaller 8-percent dip.
On a more positive note, the center, which also tracks foundation and corporate grants of $1-million and up, found that grant makers’ giving was more resilient in the face of last year’s recessionary climate.
Foundations actually increased the number of grants of $1-million or more by 10 percent in the last six months of last year, from 500 to 551, and by 16 percent for the entire year.
Meanwhile, corporate grants of $1-million or more remained steady, with 146 such grants made in both calendar years.
All told, gifts of $1-million or more from all sources increased in number by 4 percent, to 2,270.