Understanding Motivations of Mega-Gift Donors to Higher Education: A Qualitative Study

Michael J. Worth, Sheela Pandey, Sanjay K. Pandey, Suhail Qadummi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Patterns of giving to higher education by individual donors have changed in recent years, with large gifts accounting for an increasing percentage of the total. In light of this shift, understanding the motivations of donors who make very large gifts, commonly known as “mega-gifts,” has become important. Efforts to explore these motivations run into access barriers. This article uses an innovative methodological approach to overcome this challenge. Drawing on the media coverage of mega-gifts, the authors create donor biographies and carry out qualitative analysis of these donor biographies to examine donor motivations and evolution in motivations. The article draws on the existing literature to synthesize a typology of donor motivations and uses this typology to categorize the motivations of mega-gift donors. The identification of additional subcategories under the broad category of impact is a significant contribution of this study and adds nuance to our understanding of mega-gift donors to higher education institutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-293
Number of pages13
JournalPublic Administration Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing


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