Among wealthy households, average giving as a percentage of household income held steady at approximately 9 percent between 2009 and 2011, despite the challenging economic environment, according to the 2012 Bank of America Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy. Through an ongoing partnership with the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, the fourth in this series of biennial studies reveals a strong commitment to charitable causes among high net worth households. This is manifest in several findings, including:
- Last year, the vast majority (95 percent) of high net worth households donated to at least one charity. This high rate of giving among the wealthy is consistent with the previous studies in the series, and compares with 65 percent of the general population of U.S. households who donate to charity.
- In 2011, 89 percent of wealthy individuals volunteered their time and talent to nonprofit organizations – up 10 percentage points from 2009.
- For the first time, this study asked wealthy donors to forecast their giving for the next several years – an area of concern for nonprofits operating amidst economic uncertainty. Responses offer an optimistic outlook, with 76 percent of wealthy donors planning to give as much as or more during the next three to five years (through 2016) than they have in the past; just 9 percent plan to give less.
To put the importance of giving by wealthy donors into context, of the nearly $300 billion donated last year more than 70 percent was given by individuals, of which roughly half was given by the wealthiest 3 percent of American households.
“Since 2006, this has become the largest and one of the longest running studies of its kind, offering key insights that help to inform nonprofit organizations’ donor engagement strategies,” said Claire Costello, philanthropic practice executive for U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management. “The latest study offers a deeper understanding of giving trends, strategies and traditions among America’s wealthiest households.”
The following are key findings from the 2012 study, which reveal significant shifts as well as consistent trends in the attitudes and giving priorities of the wealthy, including: the nonprofit sectors they support, how they direct their largest gifts, what motivates them to give, why they stop giving, and their family and holiday giving traditions. The study also examines new areas of inquiry, including the rate at which wealthy donors contribute to political causes as well as the level of fulfillment and satisfaction they derive from their charitable activities.