The number of extremely large donations to universities nationwide is increasing, according to data collected by a consulting firm.
The data, collected by the Atlanta-based fundraising firm Alexander Haas Martin and Partners, found that these large donations, or “megagifts,” are becoming more and more important to university fundraising campaigns, both because they contribute to the campaign’s goal and spur smaller donations.
David King, a co-author of the study and managing partner at the firm, said in an online chat hosted by the Chronicle of Higher Education that megagifts typically come from relationships with donors built over time.
“What we have really seen is that donors make these gifts in response to a ‘vision’ for the institution that has not previously been presented and they have a desire to ‘make it happen’ sooner than later,” King said.
Despite the increase in megagifts nationwide (there have been 16 of more than $100 million so far this year), the University of Michigan’s fundraising strategies haven’t drastically changed, said Jerry May, the University’s vice president for development.
May said the strategy used to court a donor who can give up to $100,000 is “very similar” to that used with a donor with the capacity to give $50 million.
“It’s all the same process, but we do spend a little bit more time focusing intensively on the people with the greatest wealth who can give a million dollars or more,” May said.
May said that he, two colleagues in the Office of Development and several individual school directors primarily work on the University’s major gift fundraising.
These megagifts are crucial to the success of the University’s $2.5 billion Michigan Difference campaign, May said.
Since the campaign was publicly launched in May 2004, it has received over a dozen gifts of $25 million and above and 14 gifts of $10 million to $25 million.
Every one of the top 10 single gifts to the University was given in the last 10 years.
May said news of a major donation – whether to the University of Michigan or other schools nationwide – encourages alumni to give.
“When Steve Ross made his commitment of $100 million to name the Ross School of Business, all kinds of other wealthy alums had to say to themselves, ‘If Steve Ross is going to give that kind of gift, then I need to stretch myself as well,’ ” May said.
Since its inception, the Michigan Difference campaign has received more than $2.6 billion.
Last year, the University brought in $425 million in gifts, gift pledges and bequest intentions.