10 Giving Trends Among High Net Worth Individuals

by Sandra K. Kidd, Partner

U.S. Trust and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy have released their biennial study of high net worth individuals, and it backs up what Giving USA and other national surveys are showing: Yes, people are giving in large numbers, and they intend to keep doing so.

This year’s study surveyed the 2015 giving patterns and preferences of 1,500 Americans with a net worth of $1-million or more (excluding the value of their home), and/or who report at least $200,000 in annual income.

Of these wealthy households:

1. 91 percent made gifts to charity last year, and most report giving to five or more causes.

2. 83 percent intend to give as much or more over the next three years, with 55 percent planning to sustain their giving at current levels and 28 percent intending to increase their personal giving.

3. Wealthy households report giving an average of $25,500 to charity, 10 times more than average household giving.

4. Arts and culture ranked fifth on the list of the wealthiests’ charitable causes, but giving to the arts was only 4.6 percent of their total giving. 64 percent of total giving was directed to either religion or for basic needs. Rounding out the top five: giving to education and health.

5. A full 74 percent said their largest gift last year was an unrestricted gift:

  • Half of all donors report they do not have a preference for making unrestricted gifts vs restricted gifts.
  • 30 percent support unrestricted giving.
  • 20 percent prefer being able to restrict their gifts.

6. 89 percent are giving directly from their personal assets and income.

7. 86 percent are making some or all gifts via cash or check, but for the first time at least half of all donors report also using online giving.

8. When asked how their behavior could most impact positive change, 45 percent said through their charitable giving and 31 percent cited voluntarism.

9. Mission matters: when asked to cite the top reasons they give:

  • 54 percent give because they believe in the organization’s mission.
  • 44 percent give because they believe their gift will make a difference.
  • 39 percent give for the personal satisfaction or fulfillment they experience.

10. 87 percent of high net worth individuals have the most confidence in the power of individuals and non-profit organizations to effect positive change and make a difference.

The full report contains a wealth of information, and can be downloaded here.

So how can you put this information to work? As we enter the season of giving, I suggest you consider three ways:

  • Use it as the basis for open-ended conversations: with your Board, your donors, your staff, and your peers.
  • Look at the key messages of your year-end solicitations. Are you emphasizing mission and showing how your organization delivers on its promise?
  • Don’t shy away from promoting unrestricted giving. If you can demonstrate results, donors will have confidence in you.