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Individual donations of over USD1m treble


The fourth edition of the Coutts Million Dollar Donors Report reveals that the value of individual donations worth more than USD1 million more than trebled across the globe, when compared to the previous year. 

The report found that in 2015, there were 2,197 donations, worth a combined USD56 billion across the UK, USA and Middle East (Gulf Cooperation Council). Some 85 per cent of the value of these donations was given by individuals and the rest by corporations or foundations. The overall value increased significantly compared to the USD17 billion donated in the same regions the previous year. There was one single gift of USD32 billion, but even discounting that, the value of donations rose more than 41 per cent.
The fourth international Coutts Million Dollar Donors Report, tracks the number, size, and recipients of USD1 million+ dollar donations given by individuals, foundations and corporations in the UK, USA and Middle East (GCC). In 2016 for the first time it also includes insights to illustrate philanthropy across Continental Europe.
The report reveals that foundations received the greatest portion of the total value of donations, thanks in particular to a USD32 billion pledge from a donor in the Middle East. However, as in previous years, higher education remained a popular recipient of million-dollar-plus giving. Almost half of the donations (1,047) were gifted directly to universities and higher education institutions, though these accounted for 18 per cent of the total financial value.
Coutts writes that several factors underpin higher education’s enduring popularity with major donors. “Universities are large institutions that have the capacity to absorb and utilise significant donations and the variety of activities on campuses also creates opportunities to accommodate the interests and passions of many different donors – from research and new facilities to scholarships. Education is also viewed by many donors as a key route to creating long-term change in society, and in many cases major donors are alumni.”
Key findings reveal that the nature and stage of philanthropy varies greatly by region. The increased number of million-dollar donations is shared among a growing pool of recipients – In the UK, the number of distinct beneficiaries rose by nearly 10 per cent (from 243 to 267) compared to 2014, while in the US the increase was even more marked, at 64 per cent (from 724 to 1,189). This is a positive sign of the breadth and variety of charitable activity benefiting from major philanthropy.  It remains rare for an organisation to receive multiple USD1m+ gifts in any one year (in both the UK and US only about 20 per cent of beneficiaries received more than one donation), but 2015 did see a marked increase in organisations in the UK receiving multiple donations.
Foundations top the list of recipients, as a percentage of the total value, for the first time, but higher education continues to prove popular – As a result of a USD32 billion pledge in the Middle East, the foundation sector received 65 per cent of the total value of gifts. Without this pledge, foundations would have ranked as the second most popular destination. Higher education continued to receive by far the highest number of million-dollar donations, accounting for 48 per cent of the total number of gifts, and saw a jump from 2014 in both the number of donations received (from 798 to 1,047) and their combined value (from USD7.58 billion to USD10.2 billion).
Higher-value donations across all regions contributed to the growth in overall value. In addition to the pledge of USD32 billion, there were a number of ‘mega gifts’ in the US – such as the USD2.86 billion given by Warren Buffett – while two further gifts of USD100 million+ were made in the Middle East, and the UK saw a higher proportion of gifts at the GBP10 million+ level than in 2014.

Rachel Harrington, (pictured), Director, Coutts Institute, says: “The data captured in the Coutts Million Dollar Donors Report paints a clear picture of the remarkable growth in major philanthropy during 2015, with new and repeat donors supporting an increasing number of recipients. But it’s the stories behind the numbers that bring to life the passion and vision that drive these donations. The interviews with major donors reflect their diverse motivations for giving, but also the ways in which they’re thinking about leveraging all their resources to achieve impact – from using their time, skills and convening power, to the way in which they invest their endowments. These trends reflect what we’re seeing on a day-to-day basis here at Coutts in the increasing number of conversations we are having with clients and their children about their philanthropic interests.”

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