New Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy | npENGAGE

New Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy

By on Nov 11, 2010


Nonprofit Trends

The 2010 Bank of America Merrill Lynch Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy has a lot of information about the attitudes and giving behaviors of wealthy donors. The study is part of an ongoing research partnership with the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, which began in 2006. There are 75 pages of statistics and trend information in the report.

About the Study Participants

This study reflects the attitudes and behaviors of more than 800 respondents throughout the United States with household income greater than $200,000 and/or net worth (excluding the value of their residence) of at least $1,000,000. The average wealth of respondents was $10.7 million. Half of those who responded had a net worth between $3 million and $20 million.

Giving Amount Trends

High net worth households gave $54,016 on average to charity in 2009. This is a 34.9% decrease from 2007 ($83,034), after adjusting for inflation. Average total giving to religious causes dropped in 2009 to $9,985 from $17,635 in 2007, a decrease of 43.4%. Average total giving to secular causes was also down in 2009 to $46,852 from $71,200 in 2007, a decrease of 34.2%. High net worth households gave the highest average amount to foundations, funds, and trusts in 2009 ($75,867), an increase of 21 percent from 2007. Wealthy households also gave a substantial amount, on average, to education ($12,759 in 2009). High net worth households gave, on average, between 8% and 16.5% of their income to charity in 2009.

Smörgåsbord of Stats

Here are just a sample of some of the statistics in the report worth noting:

  • 98.2% of high net worth households donated to charity in 2009
  • 85.4% instruct their children/younger relatives about philanthropy through the parents‟ personal efforts and family‟s network of friends/peers
  • 72.4% of wealthy households reported that they give when they believe their gift will make a difference
  • 67% of wealthy households would somewhat or dramatically decrease their charitable contributions if they received zero income tax deductions for their donations
  • 67.5% consulted accountants, 40.8% consulted attorneys and 38.8% consulted financial/wealth advisors when making charitable decisions
  • 55% of high net worth households gave their largest gift in 2009 to fund general operations at nonprofit organizations
  • 54.6% reported that two decision-makers were involved when making decisions about their charitable giving
  • 43% reported that they would leave more to charity if the estate tax were repealed
  • 41% of couples conferred with members of their household and then made joint decisions
  • 38% made a donation online
  • 15.6% made a donation in 2009 to a private foundation, a donor-advised fund, or a charitable trust
  • 7.9% reported that the disaster relief donation replaced other gift(s) they make

Giving Time, Talent, and Treasure

The more high net worth individuals volunteered, the more they gave. Non-volunteers gave $46,414, on average, in 2009 while those who volunteered between 101 and 200 hours donated on average $48,860 in 2009, and those who volunteered more than 200 hours donated on average $75,662 to charity in 2009.


Steve MacLaughlin is the Vice President of Data & Analytics at Blackbaud and bestselling author of Data Driven Nonprofits.

MacLaughlin has been featured as a fundraising and nonprofit expert in many mainstream publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, USA Today, The NonProfit Times, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Bloomberg, and has appeared on NPR.

He is a frequent speaker at events including the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP), American Marketing Association (AMA), Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), Direct Marketing Fundraisers Association (DMFA), Giving Institute Summer Symposium, National Association of Independent School (NAIS), Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC), Institute of Fundraising National Convention (United Kingdom), Civil Society Conference (Netherlands), International Fundraising Congress (Netherlands), Ask Direct Fundraising Summer School (Ireland), and a keynote speaker at several conferences across the social good sector.

Steve previously served on the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) Board of Directors and is currently an adjunct faculty member at Columbia University.

He is a frequent blogger, published author of a chapter in the book People to People Fundraising: Social Networking and Web 2.0 for Charities, and is a co-editor of the book Internet Management for Nonprofits: Strategies, Tools & Trade Secrets. His latest book, Data Driven Nonprofits, became a bestseller in 2016.

Steve earned both his undergraduate degree and a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Indiana University.

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