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Not-for-profit senior living and care organizations must develop a “disciplined philanthropy approach,” according to a special report from specialty investment bank Ziegler and Marts & Lundy’s.

Data in the Philanthropy in Aging Services Survey includes responses from 257 sites across 41 organizations, 20 states and “thousands of residents.” Most of the organizations studied are continuing care retirement / life plan communities.

Almost three-fourths of the organizations included in the study raise more than $1 million annually. Multi-site organizations tended to outperform single-site organizations both in dollar amounts raised and return on investment.

“$1 million in philanthropic revenue remains a clear dividing line for performance, scale, sophistication and investment from the organization. Investing in fundraising function, particularly at scale, leads to significant returns,” the report noted. “Organizations raising more than $1 million annually were able to maximize efficiencies so that it cost less to raise money, and were able to realize a higher return on investment.”

A key finding of the research is that individuals, rather than foundations and corporations, are the primary source of gifts, the study noted. Most of those individuals also are residents of the senior living community where they donate.

Among the communities participating in the survey, 59% indicated that they are either engaging in an active fundraising campaign or have engaged in a campaign within the past five years. In this regard, single site organizations outshone multi-site organizations in setting campaign goals. According to the research, single-site organizations set median campaign goals averaging $4.7 million, compared with $1.8 million among multi-site organizations.  

Endowments “can act as a buffer” during uncertain economic times, the authors noted. The percentage of organizations reporting endowment holdings decreased from 81% in 2021 to 65% in 3023. The median reported endowment grew to $14.1 million in 2021, with the largest reported endowment holding $90 million.

“Regardless of whether your philanthropic efforts are under the umbrella of a formal foundation or within a department of your organization, it is important to be strategic and smart in your investment of resources. It is also additionally important to always measure the [return on investment] for your efforts,” wrote Lisa McCracken, director of senior living research at Ziegler.