The Pentera Blog

Donors with Lesser Connections Make Gifts That Are Just as Large, Study Finds

One of the most fascinating findings from The Planned Giving Study initiated and funded by Pentera is that donors with lesser connections to a charity make gifts that are about the same size as those from donors with the strongest relationships.

The finding about gift size based on relationship is just one of many findings in the study released late last year. The Planned Giving Study: Building Lasting Legacies: New Insights from Data on Planned Gifts was the brainchild of Pentera CEO Claudine A. Donikian and researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. The study looked at the top 120 higher education institutions in the U.S. and then did an in-depth review of a number of universities.

As one would expect, the study found that the vast majority of gifts to the universities—73 percent—came from degreed alumni, the donor group with the strongest connections. The surprising finding came when the study compared the size of gifts from those degreed alumni with the size of gifts from several other categories of donors with lesser ties:

Relationship Median gift amount

Alumni (earned a degree)


Friends of the institution


Parents and spouses of alumni


Students who did not graduate


"There is no statistically significant difference in the average gift amounts across different types of donors in most cases," the study concludes. "Fundraisers should not assume a lower level of 'giving ability' just because a prospective donor initially had a lower level of 'linkage' with the institution. This is particularly important for planned giving development, as decision-making on planned gifts often involves not only donors but also donors' family members from different generations."