Trends That Inform What Your Clients Are Thinking Even if They Aren’t Saying It

Hot off the press, the 2021 Bank of America Study of Philanthropy: Charitable Giving by Affluent Households confirms that wealthy families are as committed as ever to the nonprofit sector and community causes. Of the 1,626 households surveyed with annual income of at least $200,000 or a net worth of at least $1 million (not counting a primary residence), 88% gave to at least one charity in 2020. Indeed, average giving by this demographic grew to $43,195 from $29,269–a 48% increase–between 2017 and 2020.

The motivations and preferences behind that giving are also changing. Here’s how:

  1. For the first time, affluent donors care as much about supporting the issues (44%) as they care about supporting the nonprofit organizations themselves (45%). In the past, most affluent donors have put far more weight on the organization when considering charitable giving options.

  2. The issues themselves are shifting, too. For example, more than 20% of affluent households supported social and racial justice causes, and impact investing nearly doubled, during the period covered by the study.

  3. Diverse donors and younger donors are beginning to prefer structured giving vehicles, such as donor-advised funds, over direct giving to operating charities.

  4. Affluent volunteers give twice as much as affluent people who don’t volunteer.

  5. Affluent philanthropists are becoming more vocal about the challenges they face when making charitable giving decisions, notably:

    • Figuring out what causes they care about and where to make donations to support those causes (40%)

    • Figuring out a charitable giving budget and how much they can afford to give (32%)

    • Figuring out how to measure the results of their giving to be sure it’s making a difference (24%)

What most affluent households are not worried about, however, according to the study, are potential changes to the income tax rules. Indeed, 78% say their giving levels would stay the same or even increase if they could not deduct contributions.