Wealthy Donors Gave 28 Percent More in 2013 Than in 2011, Study Finds

High-net-worth households in the United States boosted their charitable giving in 2013 by 28.1 percent from 2011 levels, a biennial report from U.S. Trust and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy finds.

Based on a survey of 632 households with a net worth of at least $1 million (excluding the value of their home) or an annual household income of at least $200,000, the 2014 U.S. Trust Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy (89 pages, PDF) found that 98.4 percent of respondents donated to charity in 2013, up from 95.4 percent in 2011 and the highest rate since the survey was initiated in 2006. The report also found that while the average amount donated rose from $53,519 in 2011 to $68,580 in 2013, average giving as a percentage of household income continued its downward trend, falling from 8.7 percent to 7.8 percent, as increases in income outpaced those in giving levels.

In addition, the survey found that 85 percent of high-net-worth donors planned to give as much (50 percent of respondents) or more (35 percent of respondents) in the next three to five years than they have in the past, up from 76 percent who said they planned to give as much (52 percent) or more (24 percent) when asked the question in 2012. The most commonly cited reasons for increasing their giving were "increased financial capacity" (85 percent) and the "perceived need of the nonprofits or causes" they support (48 percent). Among issue areas, 85 percent of high-net-worth donors responding to the survey gave to education, which also received the largest share of total dollars (27 percent) — and more than religion, the environment, the arts, basic needs, and international causes received combined.

According to the report, wealthy households indicated that their main reasons for giving were believing that their gift can make a difference (74 percent), personal satisfaction (73 percent), supporting the same causes annually (66 percent), giving back to the community (63 percent), and serving on a nonprofit organization's board or volunteering for a nonprofit (62 percent). Only 34 percent cited tax advantages as their chief motivation for giving. In addition, 73 percent of those surveyed said they have a specific strategy in place to guide their charitable giving, with 93 percent giving to a targeted set of organizations based on geography or a specific cause or issue and 57 percent using giving vehicles. The survey also found that households with a net worth below $1 million were less likely to have or plan to use a giving vehicle (31 percent) compared to those with a net worth between $1 million and 5 million (51 percent) and $5 million or more (69 percent).

"This year's study, more than ever, tells us that when wealthy donors are intentional about and engaged in their giving — when they find that meaningful intersection between their ideas and ideals — they give more, are more impactful, and more personally fulfilled," said Claire Costello, national philanthropic practice executive for U.S. Trust.

"2014 U.S. Trust Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy Finds 28 Percent Increase in Charitable Contribution." Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy Press Release 10/21/2014.