Nearly a quarter of wealthy donors (24 percent) have given to a political candidate, campaign or committee last year or plan to do so before the end of the election season. Donors over the age of 70 (40 percent) and members of the LGBTQ community (38 percent) are the most likely wealthy donors to give to a political candidate or campaign.
Democrats (36 percent) are more likely to give than Republicans (22 percent) and those identifying as liberal (43 percent) are more likely to give than conservatives (22 percent) or moderates (17 percent).
The primary reasons members of the 24 percent have or plan to give is that they view giving as an opportunity to exercise their voice (56 percent), hope to influence the outcome of the election (49 percent), and believe that their candidate can make a difference (46 percent), according to the U.S. Trust Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy.
Feelings that contributions would have little or no impact as compared to corporate contributions (47 percent) and Political Action Committees (26 percent) are among the reasons donors have not given to political candidates or campaigns. The study also cited believing that contributions wouldn’t make any difference (31 percent) and not having a candidate they would endorse (26 percent) as other reasons the majority of high-level donors have stayed away from political contributions.
The study was based on a random, representative sample of 1,500 donor households with a net worth of at least $1 million excluding primary residence or a household annual income of $200,000 or greater. Claire Costello, national philanthropic specialist for U.S. Trust, explained that there are no data from past studies available to compare this year’s rate of political giving to past elections, but opined that the election cycle might be influencing donor priorities.
Healthcare (29 percent), education (27.7 percent), terrorism and national security (26.9 percent), and the economy and federal deficit (25.6 percent) were the issues donors said mattered most to them, Costello said. Many of the same issues have dominated the presidential campaign. Just 30 percent of donors correlate giving to issues that matter most to them while 28 percent somewhat correlate the two. Costello attributed this disparity to donors following personal values such as trust and family over areas of interest when making gifts.
The study also delves into volunteering among wealthy donors. Half of those surveyed volunteer, double the national average per the 2013 U.S. Volunteering and Civic Engagement study. Nine in 10 donors plan to volunteer as much or more than they currently do during the next three years. The vast majority (84 percent) also give to some of the organizations where they volunteer and 49 percent give to most organizations at which they volunteer.
Statistical analysis conducted by U.S. Trust shows that those who give and volunteer at an organization give 56 percent more than those who just donate. The analysis proves that donor’s feeling of connection with an organization correlates with giving, Costello said. “It really pays off literally and figuratively when a volunteer is engaged,” she said. Other findings from the study include:
- Wealthy donors, on average, gave to eight nonprofits last year, with older donors more likely to give to many organizations. Donors older than 70 gave to an average of 11 organizations, while Baby Boomers gave to an average of seven, and donors ages 50 and younger gave to an average of five;
- Basic needs organizations (63 percent) was the most popular type or charitable subsector among high net worth households, followed by religious (50 percent), education (45 percent), environmental (42 percent), and health (40 percent);
- High net worth donors’ giving decisions are driven more by the profile of an organization (60 percent) than by a specific issue (28 percent). Older donors were more likely to say that organizations drive giving strategies, while younger donors are more driven by issues; and,
- One in six wealthy donors (17 percent) stopped giving to at least one organization last year. Over-solicitation (41 percent), change in household circumstances (40 percent), lack of communication over organizational effectiveness (18 percent), and organizations asking for an inappropriate amount (14 percent) were cited as the most common reasons for ending support.