Posted , by Elizabeth Vana, Client Coordinator. Topic: Donor Acknowledgement, Donor Retention, Donors, High-Net-Worth Individuals, Major Donors, Philanthropy Research & Events.

What Motivates Affluent Households’ Giving?

Hilary blue (1)By Hilary FulpVice President

Last week I attended an invitation-only presentation in Hampton Roads hosted by Bank of America on their new research on high-net-worth households’ giving–the 2023 Bank of America Study of Philanthropy: Charitable Giving by Affluent Households. At this event, The Curtis Group President Keith Curtis, Bank of America’s Managing Director & Philanthropic Executive William Jarvis, and Managing Director & Philanthropic Market Executive Erin Hogan spoke about the study and its ramifications for the philanthropic industry. I found the data and panelists’ remarks thought-provoking.

In my day-to-day, I often think about why and how people support the causes they do. Understanding what motivates your major donors is vital to tailoring your strategy and ensuring your organization’s fundraising success. 

In partnership with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Bank of America recently published their findings on trends in giving by major donors through the 2023 Bank of America Study of Philanthropy: Charitable Giving by Affluent Households—the ninth in the biennial series on the philanthropic behaviors of wealthy donors in the United States.

These findings illuminate trends in charitable giving and volunteering, showing how and why affluent households supported the causes important to them in 2022. Affluent households were defined as those with annual incomes of at least $200,000, or whose total assets were at least $1 million (excluding their primary residence) for the 2022 year. But why is this important for your organization?

The affluent continue to lead in charitable giving; 85% of them gave to charity in 2022, compared to 49% of the general population. On average, the total amount given to charity by wealthy donors was 17.5 times more than the general population, with an average donation just under $35k versus $2.5k. High-net-worth individuals also generously donated their time, spending 135 hours on average volunteering with an average of two different nonprofits in 2022.

How can you take advantage of these trends? Here’s what we recommend:

  • Tell Your Story  Major donors have many different motivations behind their philanthropic giving. Besides personal values/beliefs or an interest in the issue area, the top reasons wealthy donors chose the nonprofits they gave to in 2022 were recognizing and trusting that nonprofit, perceiving a need within the organization/issue area, and knowing someone who benefited from the organization. It is critical that you share the impact of your work with donors and that you share it often. Make sure you are staying in frequent contact with your donors, through personal appeals, email blasts, and social media. Focus your outreach on sharing updates and recent accomplishments, so that when you do make an ask, your donors are aware of the important work their gift will support.
  • Provide Options for Giving – 22% of affluent individuals indicated they use a charitable giving vehicle to make charitable gifts, and 54% of affluent households with a net worth between $5 million and $20 million have or plan to establish a giving vehicle within the next three years. Make it easy for your donors to support you, whether through online donations, donor-advised funds, stock options, in-kind contributions, or planned giving (See our webinar Navigating the Range of Giving Vehicles for more info) ​
  • Engage Your Volunteers – Affluent individuals on average volunteered for over 100 hours the year before last, and 62% of them found their volunteer work very or completely fulfilling. Provide opportunities for your major donors to give back through volunteer opportunities. According to Bank of America, the top three activities performed by affluent volunteers were: volunteering for a religious organization or ushering; collecting and/or distributing food, clothing or other basic need items; and serving on a board for a charitable organization. Individuals that feel personally connected to an organization’s mission are more likely to financially support them—and what better way to get someone personally connected with your mission than having them make a direct impact?
  • Understand Your Demographics – Knowing who your donors are can help you understand why they give and how to best steward relationships with them. For example, 85% of affluent household charitable giving decisions were made or influenced by a woman (including spouses or partners making joint decisions), and more women (42%) than men (33%) spent time volunteering. Consider how you are capturing the female perspective in your messaging. Likewise, older donors tend to respond best to direct mail appeals, whereas younger donors typically prefer communication through email or social media. What demographics make up your donor base? Do your donor communications appeal to the diversity of your audience? (See Three Ways to Start Your Year on the Right Foot.)

By analyzing giving trends, we can learn a lot about what motivates our major donors—and in turn, how nonprofits can be most effective when communicating with them.

What is one thing from the above list that you could incorporate into your fundraising strategy for 2024? We would love to support you and grow your donor pipeline.
Reach out to The Curtis Group, and let’s brainstorm together!
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