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Gender not seen as key in bequests

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Despite conventional wisdom, the typical bequest donor is not a single woman, a new study says.

Gender, in fact, generally does not predict whether a charitable giver is likely to leave a charitable bequest in his or her will, says the study by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Lower income, less education and lower frequency of attendance at religious services, however, are associated with not having a bequest, compared to people with a bequest, the study says.

And donors without a will are likely to be younger and have lower incomes than donors with a will, the study says, and are more likely to be unmarried, African-American or Latino/Hispanic, or attend worship services infrequently.

Funded by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and its research partner, consulting firm Legacy Leaders, the study also finds no difference in the rates of legacy gift planning between single men and single women, after controlling for other factors such as age, educational level, income and marital status.

“Nonprofits are likely to find that men and women with similar incomes, similar ages and similar educational backgrounds respond with equal interest when asked to make provisions for a bequest,” Patrick M. Rooney, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy, says in a statement.

Using representative random samples from two metro areas in the U.S. and six states, the survey was based on telephone interviews with three types of donors – those with a charitable provision in their will, those with a will but no charitable bequest, and those without a will.

Roughly 16 percent of all donors surveyed have a charitable bequest in their will.

The only gender-related difference the survey found was that, among people who frequently attend religious services, men were more likely than women to say they had made a charitable provision in their will.

Both men and women who had never married were more likely than married or widowed donors to have charitable bequests.

All three types of donors cited religious beliefs as the second-most-common motivation for their overall charitable giving.

Donors with a bequest cited as their strongest motivation for their charitable giving their sense of responsibility to help those with less.

Those donors’ third-most-frequent motivation was their belief that charities deliver services more effectively than government or business.

A higher percentage of women with bequests than men with bequests cited helping those with less and charities’ effectiveness.

Men and women bequest donors showed no statistically significant differences in how frequently they cited religious belief as a motivation for giving.

Donors who have a will but not a charitable bequest identified motivations for giving similar to donors with a bequest in their will.

Ken Ramsay, founder of Legacy Leaders, says in a statement that, “if appropriate for their organizations,” fundraising professionals “could appeal to people who are likely have a will but not a bequest by emphasizing how their work meets people’s material needs.”

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