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Million Dollar List helps high net worth donors target strategic giving
University of Indiana

November, 2011

A new, one-of-a-kind searchable database will help high net worth individuals and their financial advisors decide where, when and why to give philanthropic gifts of $1 million or more.

The Million Dollar List (www.milliondollarlist.org) is the largest free record of publicly reported gifts of this size made since 2000. The data, covering more than 60,000 gifts of $1 million and up from individuals, foundations and corporations, was compiled by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

“The Million Dollar List is the most comprehensive resource on publicly reported gifts of this size,” said Patrick M. Rooney, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. “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. Now donors and their advisors can see which organizations with causes matching their interests are receiving large gifts, where their peers are giving and where gaps in funding may exist.”

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. Searches can also reveal trends and help donors find like-minded individuals for potential collaborations to leverage their giving for greater impact.

“Donors increasingly value transparency in philanthropy and are driving that trend,” said 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.”

The Million Dollar List: Scaling Philanthropy adds to the Center’s ongoing research on high net worth giving, including multiple studies conducted for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. This project is made possible by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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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, training and public affairs programs in philanthropy, fundraising and management of nonprofit organizations. More information is available at www.philanthropy.iupui.edu.

[Million Dollar List story sidebars]

How can financial advisors use the Million Dollar List?

Let’s say a couple in Colorado is concerned about the local environment and visits their financial advisor for advice.

  1. The advisor and couple can start by clicking on Colorado in the “By Location” page of the Million Dollar List (milliondollarlist.org/locations).
  2. From a drop-down menu on the next page, they can choose to view million-dollar gifts by charitable sector and reveal a pie chart; it shows that just 3.3 percent of million-dollar gifts received by Colorado organizations go to environmental causes – perhaps indicating that such causes in the state do need funding.
  3. Below the pie chart, a list of the top recipient organizations (by dollar amount) may prompt the couple to learn more about those organizations and the effects of those previous million dollar gifts. On the other hand, it may prompt them to seek out other environmental organizations and opportunities to be the first donors to make an impact on an organization’s work at such a large scale.
  4. The couple also can see who else is working to improve the Colorado environment – which can bring reassurance, raise a red flag or promote the discussion of pooling their gift with others for greater leverage.

Of course, financial advisors and donors will further analyze any organization under consideration. But the Million Dollar List can add credible, objective data, context and transparency to advisor and donor research.

Million Dollar List reveals relationships, surprises

Selected findings from within the Million Dollar List include:

  • What are some trends? Individual giving of million-dollar gifts and the stock market are strongly correlated. Changes in the number of gifts as well as changes in the dollar amount of gifts of $1 million and up closely follow trends in the stock market.
  • Who gives? About 70 percent of the 6,800 publicly reported gifts made by individuals were from people who made one gift of $1 million or more.
  • Where do the gifts go? Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of individual gifts go to organizations based in the state where the donor lives.
  • Who gets them? Higher education organizations receive a far greater number of million-dollar gifts from individuals than does any other type of charity. Foundations receive far more dollars in million-dollar-and-up gifts from individuals than do other types of organizations.
  • Approximately 4 percent of gifts from individuals are mega-gifts ($50 million and up). About 1 percent of corporate gifts and 1 percent of foundation gifts are mega-gifts.


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