Getting to Know You: Wealthy Donors in America

U.S. Trust and Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy have released the results of the seventh survey in a series of periodic studies of the charitable giving patterns of wealthy donors. For purposes of the study, “wealthy” households are those with an annual income of more than $200,000 and/or a net worth greater than $1 million (excluding the value of the primary residence). The median annual income and net worth of those surveyed in this report were $350,000 and $2 million respectively. Just over half of donors in the study were female, and Baby Boomers were the most represented generation, comprising 50% of respondents.

High net worth generosity

Some 90% of American high net worth households reported making charitable gifts, compared to 56% of the general population. The average amount given by this group was $29,269, more than 10 times the amount given by the typical household. Wealthy donors gave to an average of eight different nonprofits, with religion, basic needs and health care/medical research being the most popular recipients.

Surveyed donors were also generous with their time; almost half served as volunteers for one or more organizations.

Donor motivations

The wealthy give for the same reasons other donors give. The top four reasons for making gifts were:

  1. Belief in the mission of the organization – 54%
  2. Belief that their gift can make a difference – 42%
  3. Belief in supporting the same cause year after year – 34%
  4. Experience of personal satisfaction or fulfillment – 32%

Only 17% indicated that receiving tax benefits was a primary motivation. However, 51% indicated that tax considerations sometimes affect their giving. It would appear to be a mistake to overemphasize tax benefits OR to underemphasize them. Regardless of whether tax savings motivated the gift, 86% of respondents expected gifts to be properly acknowledged and receipted for tax purposes.

Leaving a legacy

Most high net worth individuals plan to leave the majority of their wealth to their family, but 14% intend to leave a portion of their estate to charity, some 24% on average.

Details of the survey are available here.

Help your donors maximize their gifts in 2019 by sending them the informational booklet Your Guide to Effective Giving in 2019. For more information, click here or contact us at, or 901.680.5300.

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