Philanthropy in Aging Services Survey

Special Report  |  Spring 2023

Communities Built on Generosity 

It is an honor to share the second edition of the Philanthropy in Aging Services Study (PASS). Our publication comes at a time when our sector is still feeling the lingering impacts of COVID-19, amid rumblings of a recession, and when staffing challenges have left their mark on many aging services organizations. 

Nevertheless, we see anecdotal evidence—and the latest data in this study supports this conclusion—that fundraising in the aging services sector continues to grow in magnitude and reach. From enabling cutting-edge technology to updating or building state-of-the-art health centers that bring communities closer together, the impact of philanthropy can be truly transformative. 

Thanks to the leaders who recognized long before 2023 that fundraising in aging services deserved the same robust data that other sectors have enjoyed for decades, foundational research including the 2017 LeadingAge Virginia Philanthropy Benchmarking Survey and Giving USA’s Giving and the Golden Years, emboldened the sector’s drive to elevate the study of philanthropy. PASS exists thanks to their foresight and efforts. 

This year’s data helps to further our understanding from the 2021 report. We see ongoing evidence of maturation in the sector: impressive returns on investment and increasing adoption of sophisticated techniques and tools like campaigns and endowments.

We are especially pleased to present the first new line of research focused specifically on transformational giving, in line with other Marts&Lundy studies, which we believe represents ongoing evidence of the maturation of the aging services sector, and sheds light on both the potential for an increasing number of significant gifts to aging services organizations and the importance of investing the resources necessary to yield transformational results. 

As you consider your organization’s position in the context of these national benchmarks, we invite you to reach out to us with how you’re utilizing this information as well as what additional questions you feel could be addressed in future research projects. 

Together, we can shine an ever brighter light of understanding on philanthropy in aging services so that we can continue to work smarter and advance the critical mission of our sector. 

Irina Thompson

Let’s Connect!

How are opportunities, challenges and trends in aging services philanthropy affecting your community? We welcome your thoughts and are happy to schedule a time to talk about how we can help translate the 2023 Philanthropy in Aging Services Study into actionable recommendations for your organization.

Email us:

Call us: +1 201-460-1660

Download a Full Version of the Report

Introduction to the Data

Expanding on the 2021 findings, the 2023 data includes 257 sites across 41 organizations, 20 states, and thousands of residents. Most organizations in the data set are continuing care retirement communities. Respondents provided data based on their most recently completed fiscal year for which the organization had data; years ranged from 2020 through 2022, and as such this data begins to tell the story of COVID-19’s impact on fundraising in this sector.

Since the responding organizations represent a wide spectrum of philanthropic practices—from volunteer-run organizations to sophisticated foundations with many staff and operations spanning multiple states—the results are presented as medians rather than averages.

This line of research is the most comprehensive self-reported data set on fundraising in the aging services sector, and it continues to evolve, giving us a more in-depth understanding of trends and best practices at the overlap of philanthropy and aging services.

Respondents demonstrated a nearly even representation from single-site (44%) and multi-site (56%) organizations. Multi-site organizations ranged from 2 to 59 campuses.

PASS Map showing 4 regions

About the Data Set

74% of organizations raising more than $1 million annually

A majority (62%) of respondents are fundraising through a departmental model. 

The Building Blocks of Philanthropy

Individuals Continue to Be the Primary Sources of Giving

Individuals, particularly residents, remain the most consistent and significant donors to the sector. Institutional funders (foundations and corporations) continue to be underrepresented. There is substantial variation among responding organizations, particularly across groups of individual donors, as evidenced by the graph below. The “other individuals” sub-category can include family members of residents, organization staff, and gifts made in memory or in honor of others. Organizations should evaluate their ideal donor distribution based on their unique prospective donor makeup and consider the findings in this study as a useful starting barometer.

Note: A “box and whisker plot” shows both the median and range of data points in a particular category; a larger box indicates more widely distributed data. The percentage noted within each box indicates the median value. The box displays the middle half of data points, and the lines generally represent the full range of data distribution.

Graph for sources

Higher Board Giving is Associated with Higher Fundraising Revenue

Median board participation in fundraising is now at 100%. Organizations with a foundation model report higher instances of reaching 100% board giving – 92% vs. 55% in organizations operating in a departmental model. Single sites report higher instances of 100% board giving at 85% vs. 58% at multi-site organizations. Organizations reporting 100% board giving saw higher median fundraising revenues than organizations reporting less than 100% board giving ($1.82M vs. $1.43M).

Reaching 100% Board Giving

Median Fundraising Revenue

Investment in Fundraising 

Median investment in staff was 2.25 full-time equivalents (FTE) per organization, with focus areas in major gifts and planned gifts, annual giving/events, and administrative functions.

Bar chart

Organizations investing in the fundraising function saw remarkable returns: medians of over $800,000 in fundraising revenue per each fundraising FTE, and nearly $700,000 in net fundraising revenue per FTE.

Fundraising Staff FTE 0218
Fundraising Staff Revenue per FTE $170,000$803,580$3,933,333
Net Revenue per FTE $85,000$803,580$3,586,000

Multi-site organizations are more likely to invest more in fundraising, and they also raise higher amounts than single-site organizations.

Single Site 

Multi Site 

Group of older adults smiling

The Significance of $1 Million

$1 million in philanthropic revenue remains a clear dividing line for performance, scale, sophistication, and investment from the organization. Investment in the fundraising function, particularly at scale, leads to significant returns. 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.

Median Fundraising Expenses

Cost per Dollar Raised

Return on Investment

Funds raised per independent living unit is a useful metric that is unique to aging services philanthropy and was first deployed in the 2017 LeadingAge Virginia study. It allows us to compare fundraising results across a variety of organization types and sizes. Single-site organizations demonstrated higher medians in funds raised per independent living unit and return on investment, as well as a lower cost per dollar raised, which is likely due to the fact that the prospective donor pool is typically more concentrated than at multi-site organizations. 

Funds Raised per Individual Living Unit
Single Site$4,416
Multi Site$2,934

Median Funds Raised per Independent Living Unit

Operational Performance

All responding organizations were well under the Better Business Bureau standard of 35 cents per cost per dollar raised. Multi-site organizations slightly outperformed single sites in both cost per dollar raised and return on investment. Regardless of type of organization, it is clear that fundraising’s median return of over three-fold the original investment can make a compelling difference for aging services organizations.

Cost per Dollar RaisedReturn on Investment
Single Site$0.21$3.73
Multi Site$0.24$3.23

When analyzing foundation and departmental performance, each model demonstrated strengths and weaknesses. Organizations fundraising through a foundation model clearly show the benefit of having a body that is solely focused on philanthropy, with larger gifts, bigger campaigns, and overall higher annual fundraising totals. This performance comes at a price, however: foundations are costlier to operate, and as a result have marginally higher costs to raise a dollar and conversely slightly lower return on investment. 

Foundation Median ValuesDepartment Median Values
Campaign Total$4.71M$1.14M
Endowment Size$16M$9M
Total Annual Fundraising$3.12M$1.43M
Funds Raised per Independent Living Unit $3,750$3,357
Largest Gift$2.26M$1.8M
Fundraising Expenses $641,100$271,400
Cost per Dollar Raised$0.24$0.18
Return on Investment$3.15$4.56

Inspiring Generosity

Benevolent care, capital needs, and employee scholarship/support take the top spots as destinations for philanthropic investment in 2023.

Of Note: Endowments 
Endowments can act as a buffer in times of economic or organizational uncertainty. 65% of responding organizations in 2023 reported endowment holdings, a sharp increase from LAVA’s 10% in 2017, and a dip from 2021’s 81%. Median reported endowment grew to $14.1M and the largest reported endowment is $90M.

Of Note: Campaigns 
Among participating organizations, 59% report they are either in a campaign or have completed a campaign within the past five years. Of respondents reporting campaign goals, single-site organizations reported higher median campaign goals ($4.7 million) versus multi-site organizations ($1.8 million). 

Transformational Gifts in Aging Services

What constitutes a transformational gift varies widely. Largest-ever gifts reported by responding organizations ranged from $150,000 to $23,000,000, with a median of $1.9 million.

Closing transformational gifts takes time.
For 53% of respondents, closing a transformational gift took at least three years, yet fundraising positions have a median tenure of only three years. (source)

Transformational Gift Closed

Residents drive transformational giving. 
61% of respondents reported that their organization’s largest ever gift was made by a resident. 

Source of Transformational Gifts

Capital projects and benevolent care inspire transformational gifts. 47% of reported transformational gifts supported capital initiatives. Over a third (41%) of reported transformational gifts supported benevolent care.

A significant majority of largest gifts came in the form of bequests. This signals the importance of a proactive and robust planned giving programs in the aging services sector.

A Word of Thanks

2023 Editorial Review Board

  • Z. Allen Abbott, Baptist Homes Foundation
  • Mark Dobosz, John Knox Village Foundation
  • Laura Katz Leacu, Hebrew SeniorLife
  • Lisa McCracken, Zeigler
  • Paul Miller, Presbyterian Villages of Michigan Foundation
  • Katelyn Quynn, Hebrew SeniorLife
  • Cedric Richner, Marts&Lundy
  • Dan Selby, Christian Care Communities
  • JD Shuman, Asbury Foundation
  • Nancy Wolff, Alzheimer’s Association

2023 Marts&Lundy Contributors

  • Irina Thompson, Editor
  • Francesca Miller
  • Alison Rane

Let’s Connect!

How are opportunities, challenges and trends in aging services philanthropy affecting your community? We welcome your thoughts and are happy to schedule a time to talk about how we can help translate the 2023 Philanthropy in Aging Services Study into actionable recommendations for your organization.

Email us:

Call us: +1 201-460-1660

Download a Full Version of the Report