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​The List a Quarter Century Later

In The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s 25th annual Philanthropy 400 list, the United Way again tops the leaderboard, but only $23.5 million separates them from Fidelity Charitable, which ranked a close second. In general, donor advised funds took five slots in the top ten rankings on the list.

The yearly study ranks U.S. nonprofits according to the amount of private support they raised. In order to be considered for the most recent list, charities had to raise a minimum of $64.3 million. In the 1991 debut list, the equivalent amount was $22 million with inflation taken into account.

Private support among all the Philanthropy 400 grew by 5.1 percent from the previous year. Community foundations, public broadcasting and universities saw large increases, while other education groups, social services, and arts and culture showed some decline.

Specific findings include:

  • Community foundations and public broadcasting saw a 19.7 percent increase in private support. Private colleges and universities came in second with a 13.5 percent increase.
  • Forty eight percent of the 49 groups that received half of the private support from non-cash donations are international groups. The three that estimated the largest increases were also international groups.
  • Giving to public universities increased 151 percent since 1991. Private colleges showed a 72 percent increase.
  • Of the 68 nonprofits on the list that ran a capital campaign in 2014, 31 were colleges or universities and two were social-service groups.
  • Among the charities in the top 100 of the Philanthropy 400 in 1991, 55 appear on the current list. Comparing the nonprofit world to corporate America, only 26 of the top 100 companies on the Fortune 500 list today appeared on that same list 25 years ago.

The study gives support to the theory that while many nonprofits are showing signs of recovery from the recession, the return is still tenuous for others. Big gifts are coming in with much greater consistency than smaller donations. In education, for example, large gifts have increased, but participation in annual campaigns is declining.

The key takeaway from all of the findings is that the investment charities are making in professionalizing their fundraising efforts is gaining traction. While competition continues to increase, charities that invest in support of donor loyalty, baby boomers, female donors, and millennials will continue to see returns on their investment. Another notable finding is that while many of the big gifts are going to leading colleges, hospitals or cultural organizations, positive gains are still being reported by smaller groups that specialize in social services, international relief and development organizations.

To read “Philanthropy’s Uneven Climb: Success Stories, Red Flags, and a Trove of Data” on The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s website, click here.

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