List: 2017 A Big Year For Big Donations

Local nonprofits received 60 gifts worth more than $2 million in 2017, the highest number that we’ve recorded since we started compiling our Largest Philanthropic Gifts list in 2012.

The total dollar figure nearly set a record, too: Those 60 gifts were worth $310.7 million — just barely short of the 2015 record (49 gifts worth $311.6 million). But the 2017 total is waaaay higher than the figure from 2016: $170.3 million.

While compiling the 2016 data for last year’s list, I only found 31 gifts of $2 million or more — barely enough to fill the print version of the list. Fearing that I wouldn’t have enough gifts this year, I lowered the bar to $1.5 million. Using that lower threshold, I found 74 gifts worth $337.9 million. All of them appear in the digital version of the list.

Of course, the numbers could drop again next year: They vary pretty widely from year to year. Why? Well, if a large organization goes on a major fundraising campaign, that could drive the numbers up one year. And if that organization decides not to submit gifts for the list the following year, that will drive the numbers down.

And one or two particularly large gifts can drastically skew the total dollar figure — but that didn’t happen on this year’s list. JumpStart, a nonprofit that works with local entrepreneurs, received the largest gift: a $24 million grant from the KeyBank Foundation. A big gift for sure, but not unusually large judging by past lists.

As per usual, the list is dominated by the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University. The Clinic received 19 qualifying gifts worth $90.2 million, including a $23 million anonymous gift for liver research (No. 2 on the list) and two other gifts exceeding $10 million. Case received 13 gifts worth $53 million, including a $20 million gift tied for No. 3, from Bob and Brenda Aiken.

The University of Akron had a particularly strong showing this year, receiving three gift commitments worth $28 million (including the other gift in the No. 3 spot, from the estate of Jean Hower Taber). Some gifts on the list represent commitments to make future donations.

Three other nonprofits received gifts exceeding $10 million: The Musical Arts Association (which runs the Cleveland Orchestra), the Cleveland Foundation and Playhouse Square. None of those organizations had gifts included on last year’s list.

For the full list, visit Crain’s Cleveland Business.