Originally published February 18, 2015

The Chronicle of Philanthropy released its annual Philanthropy 50 list last week, revealing new trends among the top 50 donors to charitable institutions in 2014.

Trends Among the Top 50 Donors

to Charitable Institutions in 2014 (in billions)

  • Top donors are giving more. The top 50 philanthropists of 2014 gave $9.8 billion, 27.5% more than in 2013, reflective of a recovering and growing economy.
  • Foundations and Higher Education continue to attract the largest gifts. Foundations and donor-advised funds attracted well over half of giving from the top 50 philanthropists, led by Bill and Melinda Gates’ gift of $1.5 billion to their foundation.
  • The technology industry is becoming increasingly important. As major technology companies continue to grow and go public, wealthy founders are becoming leading philanthropists. In 2014 twelve of the fifty acquired their wealth from technology, up from six in 2013. These 12 tech donors accounted for 47% of the $9.8 billion donated by the top 50, with the majority of funds going to family foundations, community foundations, and higher education. In contrast, the number of individuals on this year’s list from the finance industry decreased from 14 to 11, contributing 25% as much of the amount that tech donors gave.

    Percentage of Giving by Donor Industry


  • Demographics are changing. With many tech giants on the list being owned by entrepreneurs under age 50, we see younger donors comprising a greater share than in past years. The percentage of individuals on the list under age 50 doubled from 2013 to 2014, from 8% to 16%.

    2014 Philanthropy 50 by Age Group


What does this mean for your institution?

Your organization may not have one of the Philanthropy 50 donors in your database, but it’s worthwhile to consider how the trends among these leading philanthropists might inform your approach to fundraising in the coming years. Here are a few considerations:

  • Similarities in top donors and prospects. You may have some donors and prospects that fall just below this list and exhibit similar patterns in terms of age, sources of wealth, and giving patterns. Are your development officers prepared to engage these audiences?
  • Speaking their language. This new cadre of tech-based donors means that speaking a donor’s language requires a vocabulary for high-tech business and high finance. Are your fundraisers equipped to have these conversations?
  • The shifting expectations in engagement. The donors on the Philanthropy 50 list, especially the younger ones, are engaged in philanthropy in non-traditional ways. They dont just write checks; they get involved in the programs they fund and bring their talents to the table. How can your organization develop a culture of collaboration and meaningful engagement with your top prospects and donors?

Copyright © 2015 Bentz Whaley Flessner & Associates, Inc.

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