The announcement this week of the Penny and Phil Knight gift of $500 million to the University of Oregon, the largest ever to a public university, shows that while 2015 was a record year for 8-figure and 9-figure gifts, 2016 is on track to see even more. The growing and new fortune in the world’s wealthiest has spurred a new set of philanthropists. Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla have made a multi-billion-dollar commitment to give away their wealth, and others have followed suit.

Overall, mega-gifts and individual’s wealth are having an immense impact on the philanthropic sector:

  • The combined wealth of the 400 Americans on the 2016 Forbes 400 list is $2.4 trillion, a record high and an average of $6 billion per person.
  • Major giving has favored higher education; last year 16 of the 24 largest gifts made went to higher education.
  • Campaigns have become more concentrated on major gifts, with the top donors making the campaign. Thirty-two 9-figure gifts and pledges were made to colleges and universities over the last three years, the majority of which were in a campaign.

These mega donors are giving to multiple causes and institutions. Notably, the Knight’s recent gift to the University of Oregon is one of many 9-figure gifts the couple has made over their lifetimes, including those to Stanford University and Oregon Health and Science University.

Share This