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Joanne Fritz

Wealthy Donors Give More When They Volunteer

By November 6, 2012

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Cover of Bank of America Study of High Net Worth Donors

The Bank of America survey of the wealthiest donors was released recently and painted a post-recession picture of how these sought-after donors handle their charitable donations.

The survey (conducted by Indiana University's Center on Philanthropy) covered donors with incomes of more than $200,000 or a net worth of more that $1-million. It revealed that 89% of affluent donors volunteered in 2011, which was an increase of 10 points from 2009. More than half of those donors volunteered for more than 100 hours.

We know that volunteering in general is positively correlated with charitable giving. In this study, people who volunteered for more than 100 hours gave, on average, $78,000 to charity. For those who spent fewer hours volunteering, the average came to less than $39,000. On the other hand, donors in this study who did not volunteer at all gave an average of $49,742 to their charities.

The message for nonprofits? Don't hesitate to involve high net worth donors. Get them moving and donations are likely to be higher. That may be because volunteers gain first hand knowledge of the good that a charity actually does.

There is much more in the Bank of America's survey. Here are some of the high points:

  • Ninety-five percent of the wealthiest households gave to charity in 2011, and their donations, as percentage of household income, held steady at about 9%, compared to 2009. However, the average dollar amount donated by this group of donors did decline by 7%, compared to 2009.

  • Wealthy donors favor religious institutions for their donations and then education.

  • Support for general operations (overhead) is up among the wealthy...60% of these donors said that their largest gifts were unrestricted, up from 55% in 2009. More than 80% said they expect charities to spend an "appropriate" amount of their donations on administration and fundraising.

  • Wealthy donors reported being disappointed and giving up on certain charities more often in 2011. Twenty percent said they stopped giving to five or more groups, up from 13% in 2009.

  • Wealthy donors reported that they have more faith in individuals to solve social problems than other entities. Nonprofit groups come in second. Only 30% said they were strongly confident that nonprofits could meet domestic and global problems; 75% said they had almost no confidence in Congress to do so.

  • Half of the affluent donors surveyed said whether or not they received a federal tax deduction did not matter, that they would give the same amount even if they got no deduction.

  • The wealthy donors in this survey expect charities to use sound business practices (75%); 74% expect to receive a thank you; and more than a third said they had stopped giving to at least one charity because of over solicitation. They also want to know how their gifts are being used, and how they promote a charity's mission.

Compare this survey's results to those that Forbes found recently through a similar survey and its summit of billionaires.

Average Gift by the Wealthy Has Declined Since 2009, Chronicle of Philanthropy.
2012 Bank of America Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy Finds Donors Firmly Committed to and Highly Engaged With Nonprofits, Bank of America press release.
The 2012 Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy (PDF), The Center on Philanthropy.

Photo: Cover of Bank of American Study

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