Are You Million Dollar Ready?

Are You Million Dollar Ready?

December 10, 2013 by jga_admin


by Angela White


One of things I value most about JGA as a firm is that we are committed to not just serving our clients well but also to strengthening the field of philanthropy and empowering all nonprofits to make the world a better place. Supporting and conducting original research on fundraising best practices is one way that we pursue this part of our mission.


In that vein, I am proud to announce the results of our most recent research project, “Million Dollar Ready: Assessing the institutional factors that lead to transformational gifts.” This report probes the organizational and board-level factors that encourage gifts of a $1 million or more to colleges and universities in the United States.


Unlike most research on major gift fundraising that focuses largely on donor perceptions and motivations, our study examines what impact a number of key qualities of the institutions themselves have on the number and value of these transformational gifts.


We know the difference million dollar gifts can make in helping an institution realize its educational vision. Yet, according to this study, less than one in three degree-granting institutions in the U.S. received a publicly-announced gift of a million dollars or more during the twelve-year study period. It is important for institutions to learn how to make themselves “million dollar ready” as they work to increase their relationships with donors capable of making such transformative gifts.


This report is a collaborative venture of JGA and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, and is based on a unique data set that combines information on million dollar gifts from the Million Dollar List with a number of other data sources, as well case studies of institutions with a history of success in generating these large gifts.


We know there is no magic formula for receiving large gifts, other than perhaps listening to and building positive relationships with donors over time. But this report identifies, among other findings, that presidential tenure, board giving, rankings, and investments in faculty and staff are indicative of organizations that receive transformational gifts.
The Million Dollar Ready report examines the impact of a number of institutional characteristics on million dollar gifts, including:


  • Presidential tenure;
  • Board giving;
  • Alumni giving;
  • Enrollment;
  • Employee expenses;
  • Ratio of tenured to non-tenured faculty;
  • Endowment value;
  • Institution type and age; and
  • Location.


A special Implications section in the report provides institutions advice and takeaways to consider as they work to strengthen their ability to attract million-dollar donations. Download the Executive Summary or the full Million Dollar Ready Report, to learn how your organization can become Million Dollar Ready.