Most Wealthy Americans Plan to Give More to Charity, Survey Finds

Ninety-one percent of high-net-worth U.S. households donated an average of $25,509 to charity in 2015, while 83 percent plan to give as much or more over the next three years, a report from U.S. Trust and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy finds.

Based on a survey of nearly fifteen hundred U.S. households with a net worth of $1 million or more and/or an annual household income of $200,000 or more, the 2016 U.S. Trust Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy (114 pages, PDF) found that women, African Americans, and younger high-net-worth individuals (age 50 and under) were more likely than others to say they plan to increase their giving over the next three years. According to the study, giving in support of basic needs was the most popular cause among wealthy donors (63 percent), followed by religious causes (50 percent) and health (40 percent). In terms of dollar amounts, religious causes received more than a third (36 percent) of the dollars given by wealthy donors, followed by basic needs (28 percent), higher education (8 percent), and health (7 percent). And among the 33 percent of respondents who made impact investments, 61 percent did so in addition to their existing giving, while 34 percent did so at the expense of some of their giving.

The survey also found that wealthy individuals were more likely to give to charity than the general population (91 percent vs. 59 percent) and to volunteer their time and talents to charitable organizations (50 percent vs. 25 percent). In addition, volunteering with a nonprofit organization was strongly correlated with giving to that organization, with 84 percent of respondents saying they contributed financially to at least some of the organizations they also volunteered time to, while those who volunteered gave 56 percent more on average than those who did not. Among those who currently volunteer, 90 percent said they planned to volunteer as much or more over the next three years, including 97 percent of younger individuals and 92 percent of boomers.

Survey respondents also were more likely to believe that charitable giving (45 percent) and volunteering (31 percent) had greater potential for making a positive impact on society than voting for (13 percent) or contributing to (1 percent) a political candidate who shared their ideals. Overall, 44 percent of wealthy donors said they believed their giving is having the impact they intended, while 54 percent were not sure, which, according to the report, may be due to the fact that 78 percent said they do not monitor or evaluate the impact of their charitable giving.

"Nonprofits that understand the priorities and expectations of their wealthy donors, engage them in meaningful and fulfilling ways, and communicate the organization's impact," said Una Osili, director of research for the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, "can effectively partner with donors to achieve their mutual goals for a better world."