Posted March 8th, 2017

High Capacity Donors

The latest U.S. Trust Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy report provides some interesting insights into the attributes and philanthropic practices of affluent Americans.

This research is based on a survey of U.S. households with a net worth of $1 million or more (excluding the value of their primary residence) and/or annual household income of $200,000 or more. The average income and wealth level of participants in the study was approximately $331,000 and $16.8 million, respectively. According to IRS figures for 2014, taxpayers with incomes over $200,000 accounted for over half of all charitable gifts deducted that year. The $106 billion donated by this group also represents some 40 percent of the total amount of gifts by individuals in the U.S. in 2014, according to Giving USA. This is why understanding more about the characteristics of these affluent and high net worth individuals is of great interest to gift planners and charitable advisors.

Donor motivations

One critical point from the study is that more than 97 percent of these affluent donors are driven to give because of the mission of the recipient organization. The five most common primary motivations cited for making a gift were ranked as follows:

1. Mission of the organization 97.2%
2. Belief that a gift will make a difference 94.3%
3. Support the same causes year after year 92.3%
4. Personal satisfaction or fulfillment 90.8%
5. Give back to the community 87.9%

The most important secondary motivations which sometimes affected the decision to make a gift were ranked as follows:

1. When you were asked 84.9%
2. Spontaneously in response to need 77.2%
3. To honor another 66.9%
4. To remedy an issue affecting you or others 60.7%
5. Give back to the community 60.6%

The report makes it clear that a variety of overlapping motivations influence the decision to make a gift, including one’s religious beliefs, tax benefits, political or philosophical beliefs and volunteer engagement. Section six of the study goes into greater detail about various philanthropic motivations, values and personal fulfillment from charitable activity. Understanding what motivates your donors can help you communicate to your constituents more effectively. ■

The publisher of Give & Take is not engaged in rendering legal or tax advisory service. For advice and assistance in specific cases, the services of your own counsel should be obtained. Articles in Give & Take may generally be reprinted for distribution to board members and staff of nonprofit institutions and other non-donor groups. Proper credit must be given. Call for details.

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