High Net Worth Philanthropy Giving Trends

December 21, 2016

A 2016 study of High Net Worth Philanthropy was issued in October as a collaboration by U.S. Trust and the Indiana University Lilly School of Philanthropy. A full copy of the report can be obtained here.

This is the sixth such study conducted since 2006 on a biennial basis. The study is based on a survey of more than 1,500 US households with a net worth of $1 million or more, which excludes the value of their primary residence, and/or an annual household income of $200,000 or more. The average net worth of the respondents was $16.8 million with a household income of approximately $330,000. Some respondents likely had extremely high net worths, which sent the averages higher.

Overall, the results are encouraging for charities cultivating wealthier donors; 91% of these households donated to charity and the average amount given to charities per household was approximately $25,500. Approximately 50% of the surveyed households also volunteer with charitable organizations. By comparison, 59% of the general population gave to charity and on average donated approximately $2,500. The causes most likely to receive donations were basic necessities, religious, and health categories with religious organizations receiving the most dollars. Also encouraging is the fact that 83% of those surveyed plan to continue giving at the same level or more in the next three years. Of the remaining 17% of respondents, 14% were undecided on future donations and only 3% planned to reduce future contributions.

“Wealthy donors continue to be incredibly generous with their time and money in support of social change in their communities and in the world,” said Claire Costello, national philanthropic practice executive for U.S. Trust. “And while their charitable activity is driven to a large extent by their personal values and convictions, donors are also listening closely to the needs of nonprofits as they make their giving and volunteering decisions.”

Interestingly, when asked why a household stopped supporting an organization the number one reason given was “they received too many requests from the organization or that the requests were too close together.” The report has a wealth of other information about high net worth philanthropy and should be recommended reading for development officers.