Anonymous Donors Emerge as Heroes of Giving Tuesday

giving Tuesday anonymous donations

This year’s Giving Tuesday, the largest single day of giving in the US, saw what has become a familiar trend: more and more donors looking to give back anonymously. Whether it was through matching gifts or single donations, anonymous donors again proved that the desire to give back, and also the desire for privacy, remain two very important ideals for philanthropic-minded people and institutions.

We wanted to highlight some of the efforts of anonymous donors that made it into the news for their generosity. You can see that these anonymous donations went to a wide-range of institutions and had a tremendous impact on Giving Tuesday campaigns. From very large, to more modest donations – everything went to a great cause.

This tiny sampling above represent millions and millions of dollars every year that are donated anonymously. The impact of anonymous donations, within the landscape of philanthropy in the US and abroad, has become nothing short of unmistakable. This #GivingTuesday further showed that privacy has revealed itself to be a cherished ideal among donors. If you want to give back (to a charity, nonprofit, university, and more) and also remain private, please click “Donate Now” below to fill out our easy donation form! Also, if you are an institution that collects donations and you want to appeal to these growing privacy-minded donors, contact us today to find out how we work with organizations to quickly set them up to accept anonymous donations through our platform (email: [email protected]).

Anonymous Donations to Universities Skyrocketing

We have been following a sustained trend that has hit higher-education institutions for a few years now: the rise of anonymous donations to universities. The desire among donors to remain private in their gifts to universities includes everything from millennials sending small sums, to wealthy donors giving gigantic $252 million donations. Read more to see just how prevalent anonymous giving has become in donating to universities.

The choice to pursue anonymity as a donor is becoming more attractive for a variety of reasons (for more on the ‘why’ behind the choice to be anonymous, see our article here). However, the traditional way of giving “anonymously” to a university almost always means that the university actually knows who the donor is, but simply agrees to keep it confidential. Some institutions try to set up private foundations to help conceal the donors’ identities, but, as this Chronicle article reports,In college fund raising, anonymous donors typically aren’t truly anonymous. Someone on campus — the president, or a top fund raiser who worked with the donor — knows the identity of the person who gave the gift.

Many times this current system fails both the donors and the recipient universities, as the donor is not getting the actual anonymity they desire and now famously bureaucratic universities have to fight to keep their identity under wraps – lest they risk angering and/or exposing their anonymous donor, which is exactly what happened to a $100 million anonymous donor to Oregon Health & Science University. Or this $2 million anonymous donor to Myers University, who was outed by the Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor.

More people are turning to Silent Donor to accomplish what they want – to give back to their favorite schools, but to do so in a manner that is consistent with the level of privacy they are comfortable with. In line with this, anonymous gifts have exploded over the past few years and have in fact regularly become the largest donations that universities have ever seen. We have a few of them chronicled below, representing both large and small institutions from all across the United States:

Silent Donor allows donations to universities (and nonprofits) all over the country (and world) in order to help these institutions fundraise in a way that connects with their donor-base. As we can see, a look at the US donor-base reveals a predilection towards anonymous giving, rather than following tired “ask-and-give” patterns.

7 Anonymous Donations

We decided to launch a quick public campaign of #7DaysofAnonymousDonations on our social media pages to highlight 7 impactful anonymous donations that have taken place within the past 30 days to display the power and prevalence of anonymous giving in the world, especially in combatting some social effects of COVID-19. These anonymous donations impact many different areas – universities, the arts, hospitals, ecological preservation, small businesses, and more. Whether millions of dollars, or much less, each donation is responsible for creating impactful change in the communities they are given. These aren’t just monetary donations – they represent improvements to people’s lives and they represent opportunities for change. Be someone’s anonymous donor!

  1. Day 1: UNIVERSITIES– The University of Miami received the largest donation in the school’s history, $126 million, from an anonymous donor. This gift will be given to their Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. As an aside, we have seen many gifts given to universities anonymously. The largest gift ever given to UC-Berkeley took place this year ($252 million) and was also donated anonymously for example. Read more here:
  2. Day 2: HOSPITALS – A $2.5 million anonymous donation was given to French Hospital Medical Center to support a critical hospital expansion in the wake of COVID-19. Anonymous medical-related donations have skyrocketed to help combat COVID. Read more here:
  3. Day 3: FOOD BANKS – an anonymous donor gave $100,000 to a food bank in Sarasota Florida. Since the pandemic, the food bank has “seen an overall increase in need of approximately 120%, with new clients increasing by nearly 45%.” The food bank says demand for food will remain critically high as people continue to face significant financial strain. Read more here:
  4. Day 4: SOCIAL ORGANIZATIONS: The Boys & Girls Club of San Benito received a $65,000 anonymous donation. This donation will enable them to facilitate virtual learning assistance to children of frontline workers and otherwise busy parents. This funding will help them make sure the children in their club do not fall behind in school despite all the challenges brought on by virtual classes. Read more here:
  5. Day 5: NATURE PRESERVATION – an anonymous donor funded the restoration of a hiking trail in Colorado which had been in a state of disarray due to a previous lack of funding. Get involved in a cause you would like t support and send a donation anonymously! Read more here:
  6. Day 6: THE ARTS – an anonymous donor pledged to match up to $75,000 in donations to the Berrien Community Foundation to support ten art institutions in Michigan, including the Children’s Music Workshop, Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra, Citadel Dance & Music Center and more. Read more here:
  7. Day 7: JUSTICE – an anonymous donor has raised Shawnee County Crime Stoppers Reward by $20,000 for info leading to an arrest in the double homicide of a mother and her 13-year-old daughter. You can have a HUGE social impact as an anonymous donor.

No matter the cause or organization you choose to support, now, more than ever, people & organizations need donations to survive. To donate anonymously to any organization you want to support, simply fill out our easy online donation form!

Stop Donation Shaming Public Figures

Whether it’s for COVID-19 relief, the Australian fires, or any other big event, wealthy public figures continuously choose to donate their money to help alleviate the financial stress of these global issues. However, more and more public figures are now met with online backlash as a result of their donations – some users even shame them for their giving. Donation shaming is dumb, it does nothing but invite negativity, and what’s worse is that it may dis-incentivize public figures from donating in the future. Many wealthy people don’t donate at all…why shame the ones that do? Where is the wisdom in that? This issue is part of why so many people have turned to using Silent Donor to send an anonymous donation.

Social media is the biggest culprit of donation shaming, with Twitter users leading the charge. Take this recent example of a verified Twitter user with almost 200,000 followers shaming Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan, and Bill Gates who funded a $25 million coronavirus research group because this user thinks $25 million is an insignificant amount of money relative to Zuckerberg’s net worth.

Using the ‘net worth versus donation amount’ argument has proved to be a popular argument for many people, who appear to insist on shaming public figures instead of acknowledging that they freely and willingly donate millions of dollars to the public good when they don’t have to. That seems to be the part that gets lost on these people: nobody forces wealthy people to donate. They do it to better the lives of others. It shouldn’t matter if a public figure or your neighbor donates $100, $10,000, or $10,000,000. All these figures are better than $0 and will go towards improving the lives of an untold amount of suffering people. Here is another example of such a tweet after Jeff Bezos gave donated $1 million AUD to Australia to aid against the fires that ravaged the country.:

This user chose to compare the million dollar donation to Bezos’ ever fluctuating, on-paper net worth that this user arrived at after putting in all of one google search into researching it, instead of recognizing that nobody has to donate money ever. They do it to help.

Donation Comparisons

Another dangerous and slippery slope that public donations invite is donation comparisons. In that link, CNBC focuses on pointing out how much money different celebrities have donated to Australia for the fires. What does this mean for you if you are a public figure? People compare either the amount you donated to the amounts that other people donate, or they compare the amount you give to one cause vs. a different cause (and they then unfairly lay claim that you therefore view one cause more favorably/significantly than the other).

Luckily, many Twitter users are recognizing that donation shaming high-profile people is not an effective use of anyone’s time. It is unnecessary at best, and can scuttle future donations from public figures at its worst. Use Silent Donor to send an anonymous donation today to any organization that you are passionate about. Keep the impact of your donation, but lose the unwanted attention.

Why Send An Anonymous Donation?

why send anonymous donations

We have found that answers to the question of, Why send an anonymous donation? differ greatly from person to person/company to company. We get this question a lot, so we figured we would address some of the big reasons why people choose to give privately. We at Silent Donor encourage all people to donate to causes you feel strongly about – publicly if you are ok with that exposure, or privately with us.

Very quickly summarized, donors have different levels of exposure depending on which organizations they choose to send donations. Certain tax-exempt organizations must report the name and address, and the occupation and employer (if an individual), of any person that contributes in the aggregate $200 or more in a calendar year. Private Foundations must list every donor who has donated over $5,000. Even in cases where the IRS is supposed to redact the names of donors on charity tax returns, we have seen cases in the past where they instead leaked the entire donor list.

Now, we’ll get into some of the major reasons why people choose to donate anonymously.

1. Probably the most frequently cited reason for giving anonymously is because donors, especially millennials, hate receiving endless solicitations (calls, texts, emails, physical mail) to send another donation. Some organizations share their contact lists with other organizations, which compounds the problem. It’s extremely annoying and a hassle that donors want to do without.

2. Religion can play a part in the desire for anonymity. Many religious traditions teach that anonymous giving is more spiritually rewarding than gifts that are accompanied by public acclaim. As early as the twelfth century, for example, the Jewish philosopher Maimonides taught that anonymous giving was among the highest forms of philanthropy.

3. Others may be shy or naturally humble and are not comfortable being in the limelight for any reason, including the acceptance of recognition for making a significant charitable gift.

4. In today’s day and age (social media saturation, 24-hour news cycles, our “cancel” culture), some donors simply want to avoid negative public attention because it can bring unwanted and lasting consequences against a person or a company (think Chik-fil-A or Soul Cycle for example) through the form of boycotts, public defamation, negative media coverage, lost partnerships, social shunning – all of which can negatively affect the economic, political, and social capital (even personal security) of the donor.

5. Some give anonymously because they do not want to raise expectations that they will make a similar gift in the future. Such donors may have received an inheritance or other one-time economic windfall and do not expect to regularly repeat the gift. Remaining anonymous serves to relieve this pressure.

6. Other donors may not want their family or friends (perhaps including a spouse) to know they are making certain charitable gifts. Here, anonymity may stem from a perceived disapproval by others of the mission of the charitable recipient or of the giving behavior in general.

7. An often-mentioned reason for anonymous giving, especially in lean economic times, is the concern by donors that they will be identified as a source of major philanthropic support and will be deluged with appeals from other entities. Board members and volunteers who understand how “donor research” is conducted may be especially prone to this concern.

8. In still other cases, a donor may have succeeded financially in an environment in which many of his or her peers suffered losses. This donor may believe decorum and good taste dictate that large gifts be made anonymously.

9. In some instances, donors don’t want their gifts to one organization compared to their gifts to another. After making relatively modest gifts or reducing their gifts to some charitable interests, donors may wish to conceal larger gifts and/or a decision to increase their giving to other organizations.

10. Wealthy donors have also been targets of charity shaming if the public thinks they did not give enough money to a given cause. We saw this when Jeff Bezos was attacked for “only” donating $1 million to help Australia after the brushfires, or when Keith Urban “only” donated half a million to the same cause.

11. A donor may be concerned that the publicity surrounding a larger gift could discourage others from giving either out of concern that a smaller gift compares unfavorably or perhaps that the nonprofit’s needs have been met.

12. In the case of schools and certain other types of charitable recipients, a donor may wish to remain anonymous out of concern that a gift could bring unwelcome attention to a child or other loved one who is a student, employee, or is otherwise associated with the institution.

13. Donors involved in politics or who otherwise lead public lives may be sensitive to the controversy they themselves may inspire and therefore give anonymously to protect the recipient from the possible backlash of their own detractors.

14. Lastly, some donors might even be concerned for the safety of their family, fearing that large, public gifts could make them targets for kidnapping or other criminal activity.

Some items listed were originally posted in a great article written by Robert F. Sharpe Jr., which you can find here.

Whatever reason you choose, send an anonymous donation today!!