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Charitable donations over $1 million drop 8%, a third gift to higher education

By Michael Finnigan

Universities remained the main destinations for multi-million dollar donations in 2014, despite a 8% drop in the total number of charitable gifts overall, according to a recently published study of donor trends in six regions around the world.

The 2015 Million Dollar Donors Report, published by UK-based private bank Coutts, found that 1,831 donations greater than $1 million were gifted in 2014 amounting to a total of $24.5 billion. This is 7% fall in the value of gifts from the 1,995 donations totalling $26.3 billion in 2013. 

The report, which tracked the number, size, scale, and destination of $1 million donations made across eight different regions, also found that higher education and foundations were the main targets for million pound donations, attracting almost a third of all donations at $7.58 billion in 2014.

This mirrors the findings in the 2015 Global Family Office Report which found that three-quarters of family offices donated to educational causes.

Lenka Setkova, executive director at the Coutts Institute, said: “Whilst these numbers are lower than the previous year, overall it is evident that major philanthropy remains strong and in certain regions, including the UK, China, and Hong Kong ,where it has grown substantially.” 

She added: “This report provides valuable insight into trends in million dollar giving and explores some of the factors that shape philanthropy in each of our featured regions. It also includes interviews with many inspiring donors who have shared their very personal motivations for and experience of philanthropy.”

The report revealed a concentration of major donors around large cities and economic hubs. London remained the centre of UK giving, with 67% of the value of million dollar donations originating there. For China, the municipality of Shanghai was significant, with 74% of the value of donations originating there.

Other results from the study found that high net worth individuals give more money in total than foundations and corporations, with high net worth donors gifting 59% of the $24.5 billion donated across all regions. Foundations accounted or 25% of the donations and Corporations 16%.  

As noted in last year's report, the majority of million dollar donations tend to be directed within the region from which they originated. The Middle East continues to be an exception, where 96% of the total value of donations recorded in the report were directed overseas in 2014. 

While the report noted an overall drop in the number of donations, regions including the UK, China and Hong Kong saw a substantial increase in the relative level of donations, particularly in universities and higher education institutions.

The US segment of the study has been published annually since 2000, and the UK version since 2008. Coutts said it is the second time this type of data from the other four regions has been published.

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