The Most Major of Major Gifts
Donors always have wanted to make a difference with their gifts to nonprofit organizations. But one of the most remarkable trends in giving over the last 10 years is how large those gifts have become — so large in dollars and so significant for their lasting impact, they’ve taken on the label of “transformational gifts.”
By definition, transformational gifts are large enough to have major, lasting effects on the organizations that receive them.
When it comes to determining how much money qualifies as a transformational gift, there is no one magic number. The phrase “one size fits all” does not apply.
A $5 million gift to one charity could mean the difference between continuing its operations or closing the doors. Yet, that same amount given to one of America’s top 50 universities could be just another generous contribution in an annual-giving program that tallies $50 million to $100 million a year or more.
Magnanimous gestures of philanthropy ranging from $10 million to $500 million in lifetime giving are becoming commonplace. This escalating level of generosity on the part of philanthropists has caused nonprofits in the U.S., Canada and around the globe to shift their efforts in pursuit of truly major gifts.
A little history
Men and women of vision have been getting involved with nonprofit organizations for more than a century. Let me take you back to San Francisco, the year 1878 and the announcement of a gift of $100,000 — one of the first transformational gifts in the U.S., which created the University of California Hastings College of the Law.
It was the first law department of the University of California and one that continues operations to this day.
Historical notes from the UC Hastings College of the Law Web site make mention of “ … the vision that Serranus Clinton Hastings had for a ‘temple of law and intellect which shall never perish, until in the lapse of time, civilization shall cease, and this fair portion of our country shall be destroyed or become a desert.’”
Related story: 5 Things You Can Do to Encourage Transformational Gifts