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Crucial Donors: How Major Individual Givers Can Best Support Nonprofits

The largest source of philanthropic support for nonprofits in the United States is giving from individual donors.

Ellie Buteau, PhD

Director of Research Projects and Special Advisor on Research Methodology and Analysis, CEP

Hannah Martin

Former Manager, Research, CEP

Charis Loh

Former Manager, Research, CEP

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Of the total charitable giving in 2018, individual donors contributed 68 percent. However, the recent decline in giving among small- and medium-gift givers means that major donors are becoming critically important to nonprofits.

Based on survey responses from 198 nonprofit CEOs on CEP’s Grantee Voice panel, Crucial DonorsHow Major Individual Givers Can Best Support Nonprofits provides insight into what support nonprofits already receive from major donors, what major donors can do to support nonprofits better, and how nonprofits’ relationships with major donors differ from their relationships with staffed foundations. This resource also includes questions to guide major donors in building relationships, addressing the understanding gap, and deciding what kind(s) of support to provide to nonprofits.

The data reveals that nonprofits largely seek to develop stronger relationships with major individual donors, and are looking for more long term, unrestricted gifts. Nonprofit leaders also say that they prefer to receive funding from major donors rather than from staffed foundations, as it’s easier to manage relationships with individual major donors, and they provide more multiyear commitments and unrestricted gifts.

This research was supported in part by funding from the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and Raikes Foundation.

We invite you to download and read the report in full, and as always, we welcome your thoughts and reactions.

The survey instrument used to gather information for this report is available here.

September 2019

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