A Century of Service. Giving for Good.

New Research Looks into Giving Habits of Wealthy Donors; Why they Give and Why they Stop

The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, in partnership with Bank of America Merryll Lynch, recently completed a bi-annual study on the giving habits of high net worth individuals that pointed to some interesting shifts in attitudes and behaviors:


  • While commitment to continuing support for nonprofits remained high, wealthy households appear to be making trade-offs in the dollar amounts that they give to charity, with the overall average gift amounts in this study decreasing by 35 percent from 2007, after adjusting for inflation.
  • Nearly 79 percent of high net worth individuals volunteered in 2009, and the percentage who volunteered more than 200 hours a year rose significantly, from 27 percent in 2007 to 39 percent in 2009.
  • High net worth households reported that their top motivations for giving were being moved by how their gift can make a difference (72 percent), feeling financially secure (71 percent), giving to an organization that will use their donation efficiently (71 percent), and supporting the same causes or organizations annually (66 percent).

In 2009, 35 percent of households stopped giving to at least one organization, and 27 percent stopped giving to at least two organizations that they previously supported. The top four reasons cited for why donors stopped giving to a particular charity included too frequent solicitation/organization asked for inappropriate amount (59 percent), decided to support other causes (34 percent), household circumstances changed (e.g., financial, relocation, employment) (29 percent), and organization changed leadership or activities (29 percent).

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