Fewer couples making charitable giving decisions jointly, study finds

Fewer couples making charitable giving decisions jointly, study finds

More than three in five couples (61.5 percent) report making their charitable giving decisions together, down from 73.4 percent in 2005, a report from the Women's Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy finds.

Based on an online survey of nearly thirty-five hundred Americans conducted in May, the report, Women Give 2021: How Households Make Giving Decisions (40 pages, PDF), found that women are responsible for the giving decisions in 15.3 percent of households, up from 6.5 percent in 2005; men make the decisions in 12.1 percent of households, up from 3.9 percent; and individual partners make the decisions separately in 11.1 percent of households, down from 16.2 percent. (While LGBTQ households comprised 11 percent of respondents and 8.2 percent of married or partnered respondents, the survey did not ask the sex or orientation of respondents' partners.)

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the study found that households led by older individuals and those with children were more likely to make joint giving decisions, while households led by younger individuals, those without children, and those whose members do not attend religious services frequently were more likely to make giving decisions separately. Among single decision-maker households, men were more likely to make the decisions in households whose members attend religious services frequently as well as those in which a husband's educational attainment is higher than his spouse's, while women were more likely to make the decision in households where their educational attainment is higher than their spouse's.

According to the report, households in which the man decides gave the most on an average, $1,981, followed by joint decision-making households ($1,866), those in which the woman decides ($1,561), and those in which giving decisions are made separately ($1,015). Respondents who made giving decisions separately from their spouse said they would feel comfortable giving as much as $1,180, on average, without consulting their partner, compared with $901 for men who make the decisions for the household, $311 for women who make the giving decisions, and $239 for couples that make the giving decisions jointly. About three-quarters of respondents said they and their partners are in agreement about the amount (74.6 percent) they give and to whom they give (77.5 percent).

"Giving has the potential to bring households closer together, especially when partners are strategic and intentional about their philanthropy," said Debra Mesch, professor of philanthropic studies and Eileen Lamb O'Gara Chair in Women's Philanthropy at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. "Women Give 2021 presents an opportunity for families to connect over shared values, explore how they give, and embrace the joy that comes with giving. The report also provides donors and advisors with actionable insights to inform household giving and ensure it has the greatest impact possible."

"Women Give 2021: How Households Make Giving Decisions." Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy report 03/16/2021. "Fewer couples making charitable giving decisions together, WPI study shows." Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy press release 03/16/2021.