Since the 2002 launch of its $2-billion capital campaign, the University of Chicago has had to raise an average of about $1 million a day. Ned Jannotta, the campaign’s initial chair, found the goal figure daunting and had to be persuaded to pursue it: “My knees were knocking a bit.”

The gigantic goal, three times larger than the university’s previous campaign, is actually par for the course these days. Institutions are setting their sights far higher than ever before. The University of Illinois recently announced a $2.25-billion drive, $750 million more than its previous high. The Art Institute’s current campaign has already raised $300 million, five times more than it raised in its last campaign. By spring of next year, Children’s Memorial Hospital is set to announce a goal at least four times its previous record.

Some key changes in the world of philanthropy made these huge goals realistic. First, strong wealth creation in the 1990s minted thousands of new millionaires with money to give away. Studies show 175,000 millionaires now living in the Chicago area—and that number should rise 50 percent by 2012.

Second, new technologies were developed that could track wealthy donors and their philanthropic passions. The information-technology company Noza, Inc., for example, has developed a searchable and sortable proprietary database recording more than 26 million charitable donations from public data.

Third, newer philanthropists have been willing to open their wallets to make gifts with a visible impact. “In old philanthropy, people gave upon death,” says Terry Mazany, president of the Chicago Community Trust. “In new philanthropy, they want to be involved and see results in their lifetime.”

The U. of C.’s is the only local megacampaign so far to have reached its goal. While that’s no guarantee of success for the U. of I., the Art Institute, or Children’s Memorial, the demographic trends look rosy. You can take that to the bank.

Photograph: One Pop Photo/


How We Compare

Chicago was recently named the most philanthropic city in the United States by Noza, a California company that tracks charitable giving. Chicago edged New York in total number of gifts received, 719,512 to 712,985. Zooming out to the state level, Illinois households gave at a higher rate (77 percent) than U.S. households as a whole (67 percent). Here’s how the Chicago area gives, by income level:

Average Annual Giving by Chicag-Area Community and Income Group

Source: Donors Forum; 2005 statistics, published April 2007


By the Numbers

“Transfer of wealth” is the delicate term for the redistribution of assets after a death. A new Donors Forum study projects that a higher than average amount of wealth will be transferred in Chicago than in the country as a whole over the next 25 years. More than 14 percent of Chicagoans are over 62 years old, and a higher percentage than the national average are over 85.

The table below estimates the windfall if 5 percent of the transfer of wealth goes to charity. Moss Cail, research director at the Forum, says, “These numbers mark an unprecedented redistribution of assets in the next quarter century and hold great potential for philanthropic giving to the greater Chicago community.”

County net worth (in billions)
Avg worth per household (in thousands)
Est. transfer of wealth over next ten years (in billions)
If 5% goes to charity, that’s … (in millions)
SIX-COUNTY TOTAL of 5% figures: $6.28 billion

Heart of the City

The five Chicago ZIP Codes that made the greatest number of gifts from 2000 to 2006 were 60614 (mostly Lincoln Park), 60657 (mostly Lake View), 60610 (Near North, West Town), 60611 (Near North), and 60613 (Lake View, Uptown, North Center).  Source: Noza, Inc.