Wealthy seek connection in giving

In large part, wealthy Americans donate to charity as a way of giving back to their communities, and most who stop giving cite a lack of connection with the nonprofit they supported, a new survey says.

The survey of high-net-worth Americans, defined as those making $200,000 or more a year or having net-worth of at least $1 million, was conducted by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University on behalf of Bank of America.

More than eight in 10 respondents say they donate as a way to give back to their communities, while two in three cite a desire to make an immediate difference in the world.

And while seven in 10 cite their social beliefs and almost six in 10 credit their political beliefs as reason for giving, public recognition was cited by only one in 10 respondents, the study says.

Although slightly more than half credited their religious beliefs for their giving, almost seven in 10 learn about charitable organizations through religious institutions.

Many wealthy donors say their giving does more for them personally than for the organizations they support.

Almost half say the impact on their “personal fulfillment” is greater than the impact their gift has on the charity or on society.

Fewer than two in 10 say their donation has a large impact on the recipient organization, the study says, and only 6 percent believe they are having a major impact on society.

Another reason donors give is to pass the spirit of philanthropy on to their children.

Almost half of wealthy donors hope their giving will set an example for the next generation, and more than four in 10 donors involve their adult children in grantmaking decisions.

Last year, almost four in 10 wealthy donors stopped supporting a nonprofit, and a quarter ceased contributions to at least two charities.

The top reason they stopped giving was “no longer feeling connected to the organization,” cited by almost six in 10 of those who discontinued their donations, followed by slightly more than half who decided “to support other causes,” and four in 10 who cited “feeling like they had been solicited too often.”

About one in four cited mismanagement of assets or donations, or poor record-keeping, as a reason for pulling their support.

When determining which organizations to support, more than nine in 10 wealthy donors look for sound business practices, almost as many look for “appropriate” levels of spending on overhead, and slightly fewer look for acknowledgement of their contribution and protection of their personal information.

More than half of wealthy donors have some type of provision for charity in their wills, and almost four in 10 say they would consider adding a charitable provision in the next three years.

About two in 10 currently use donor-advised funds for their giving, while another two in 10 plan to use one sometime in the next three years.

Professional advisers, including attorneys, financial managers and accountants, have grown in importance to wealthy donors over the last few years.

In 2006, donors generally sought assistance from nonprofit staffers or their peers, but in the latest study seem to be relying more on professional advisers.

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