9 Stages of Giving

After Giving $100 Million Over 50 Years, Philanthropy Pioneer Shares His Experience

GiveBackNation.com - The late Kenneth Dayton was a philanthropy pioneer who left behind an inspirational legacy of giving. He and his wife gave over $100 million over a 50 year period. Their experiences brought about what Dayton coined the “9 stages of giving”. In interpreting these stages, Dayton looked to inspire others to find ways to move from a “minimal response” giving lifestyle to one that maximized their giving abilities.

U.S. Senator Mark Dayton is the nephew of Kenneth Dayton. "(He) just had an enthusiasm for life that was extraordinary, and a great a sense of social responsibility. He was one of the great business leaders of this community," says Sen. Dayton. "He and his wife Judy were involved in so many different aspects, some prominently, some behind the scenes. He's a great role model for my generation."

Dayton acknowledged that he himself was in the 7th stage of giving and that he aspired to give away all of his personal wealth before he died.

Ken Dayton Created 9 Stages of Giving

Ken Dayton

“They want - in giving as in everything else - a quick payout, an immediate return. Alas, in too many instances giving is becoming cause-related marketing, and less and less is it a better environment in which to work and live.”

 –Kenneth Dayton, on Modern Corporate Philanthropy


Graph of 9 Stages of Giving presented by GiveBackNation.com. All credit for 9 Stages of Giving goes to the late Ken Dayton. "The Stages of Giving" by Kenneth N. Dayton are from “The Stages of Giving,” Independent Sector, 1999. All rights reserved.
Chart of 9 Stages of Giving

The Stages of Giving

by Kenneth N. Dayton

from “The Stages of Giving,” Independent Sector, 1999


1. Minimal Response: Giving because we were asked and only because we were asked.

2. Involvement and Interest: You believe in the cause and you want to make it better. It becomes meaningful and purposeful.

3. As Much As Possible: A major transformational breakthrough that requires thinking, a budget and priorities.

4. Maximum Allowable: The IRS five-year carry-forward provision gave us an opportunity to plan and to think creatively about our philanthropy. It meant we could initiate projects.

5. Beyond the Max: We ignored the IRS maximum and began to give what we wanted to give. The second breakthrough, we decided we would no longer let the IRS tell us how much (or how little) we could give.

6. Percent of Wealth: If one no longer measures giving against income or income tax deductibility, logic soon leads to using total wealth as a measure. Until we started to measure our giving against our wealth, we did not fully realize how much we could give away and still live very comfortably.

7. Capping Wealth: How wealthy do we want to be? This means setting a limit on your wealth and giving away everything you earn beyond that figure.

8. Reducing the Cap: We are not there yet. Whether we will ever have the courage and fortitude and intelligence to lower the cap as we get older we cannot say. But, we are comfortable discussing the subject.

9. Bequests: Long ago we decided we had transferred enough of our assets to our heirs. Accordingly, we are able to leave almost all of our assets to the nonprofit organizations we have selected.


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