Affluent Americans Gave 48% More on Average Last Year, Finds 2021 Bank of America Study of Philanthropy
Average giving to charities by affluent Americans increased by 48% last year compared to 2017 ($43,195 vs. $29,269), according to the 2021 Bank of America Study of Philanthropy: Charitable Giving by Affluent Households, released today. Amid pandemic challenges, nearly 90% of affluent households gave to charities in 2020, comparable to past years. At the same time, the study found notable shifts in the way donors give across different generations, representing significant implications for philanthropists and the nonprofit sector going forward.
“Charitable activities last year and into this year reflect unwavering commitments by philanthropists to give in good times and bad, and to address societal issues as well as challenges faced in their local communities,” said Katy Knox, President of Bank of America Private Bank. “We’re also seeing a next generation of change-makers beginning to transform how giving gets done and philanthropy’s role in society.”
The study, a collaboration between Bank of America Private Bank and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI, is based on a survey of 1,626 affluent U.S. households about their giving in 2020. The findings build on insights about giving patterns, priorities and attitudes from studies conducted in 2015 and 2017, as part of a research collaboration that began in 2006.
Key findings show:
“Innovative forms of giving are being embraced by a diverse donor population whose influence, expectations and priorities are expanding traditional notions of philanthropy,” said Una Osili, Ph.D., Efroymson Chair in Philanthropy, Professor of Economics and Philanthropic Studies and Associate Dean for Research and International Programs at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “Financially empowered and technology-enabled, these affluent donors are looking to deepen their impact, using a range of tools and vehicles available to them to advance the issues they are passionate about.”
The top charities supported were broadly consistent with those in previous years. The types of charities most supported were those providing for basic needs (contributed to by 57% of affluent households), religious institutions (47%) and healthcare organizations (32%). The highest aggregate dollar amounts were donated to organizations focused on religion (32% of dollars donated), basic needs (20%) and education (16%, combining K-12 and higher education).
Nonprofits generate the most confidence among donors to solve societal or global problems, with nearly nine in 10 placing their highest confidence in nonprofits. However, other institutions are rising. Affluent individuals’ confidence broadly increased with respect to the ability of small to midsized businesses and branches of government to solve societal or global problems. Government institutions saw substantial jumps, including the president and executive branch (60%, up from 46%); the Supreme Court and federal judiciary system (60%, up from 53%); and Congress (52%, up from 40%).
In a year dramatically disrupted by the pandemic, nearly half (47%) of affluent Americans donated to charitable organizations or financially supported individuals or businesses in direct response to the pandemic. Additionally, 93% of households maintained or increased their giving to frontline organizations providing basic needs, healthcare and medicine. Read more study findings specific to the pandemic.
The 2021 Bank of America Study of Philanthropy: Charitable Giving by Affluent Households is the latest in a series of studies that have set the benchmark for research on the giving practices of affluent households in the United States.
Bank of America and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy partnered on the development of the survey. The survey was conducted using data obtained by Ipsos, including responses from its KnowledgePanel®, a nationally-representative, probability-based panel offering highly accurate and representative samples for online research. Ipsos engaged with the online panel, administered the survey and analyzed the responses for data validity. The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy analyzed the responses for data validity and generated the statistical output, with analysis of survey results being a joint effort between the partners.
The survey was conducted in January 2021, asking about charitable giving during 2020. It is based on a nationally representative random sample of 1,626 wealthy households, and includes in-depth analysis based on age, gender, race and sexual identity. The households in the study have a net worth of $1 million or more (excluding the value of their primary home) and/or an annual household income of $200,000 or more. The average income and wealth levels of study respondents were approximately $523,472 and $31.1 million respectively, with median income and wealth levels of study respondents were approximately $350,000 and $2.0 million, respectively, and respondents’ average age was 52.5 years.
The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI is dedicated to improving philanthropy to improve the world by training and empowering students and professionals to be innovators and leaders who create positive and lasting change. The school offers a comprehensive approach to philanthropy through its undergraduate, graduate, certificate and professional development programs, its research and international programs and through The Fund Raising School, Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, the Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy and the Women’s Philanthropy Institute. For more information, visit https://philanthropy.iupui.edu/. Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, orInstagram and “Like” us on Facebook.
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Julia Ehrenfeld, Bank of America
Adriene Davis Kalugyer, Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy