In December of 2013, University of Indiana’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy published a report entitled, Million Dollar Ready, Assessing the Institutional Factors that Lead to Transformational Gifts. This study took a look at colleges and Universities that have received million dollar donations and identified the characteristics that helped them attract major gifts. The study shows the importance of leadership and consistency. In addition, the report also found that a President who can create and articulate a strong vision has a profound effect on attracting million dollar gifts. Additionally, rankings matter. US News and World Reports rankings have a strong correlation to attracting major gifts. The higher the ranking, the more likely the institution is to attract a million dollar gift. The study also found that institutions founded prior to 1900 are significantly more likely chance to not only attract million dollar gifts, but to also attract larger sized gifts than their younger counterparts.
The study presents four key implications:
- Articulate a strong vision and donors will want to be part of it
- Invest in excellence and donors will invest in you
- Expect your Board to set the example and they will inspire giving
- Engage alumni to build a promising future.
Though this study looked exclusively at the higher education segment, the implications make for good advice for any nonprofit trying to transform itself and attract major gifts.