New Index Measures Individuals’ Commitment to Philanthropy

Cultural differences in Europe, Asia and the Middle East influence giving choices

New research shows that affluent individuals’ commitment to philanthropy is progressing in tandem in Asia and Europe and moving more slowly in the Middle East.

BNP Paribas and Forbes Insights on Tuesday released the Individual Philanthropy Index in Paris and New York, measuring individuals’ commitment to giving in the three regions in terms of amounts donated, innovation and the effort invested to promote causes.

The index is based on a survey conducted by Forbes Insights in January and February of 300 individuals across the three regions with at least $5 million in investable assets.

Europe had a total index score of 51.2 out of 100 and Asia 50.3, “putting them at a halfway mark in their progress toward total commitment to individual philanthropy.”

The Middle East trailed at 33.2. However, researchers noted that the latter’s lower score “might be partly explained by the religious injunction to be discreet about one’s giving.”

A third of all survey respondents said they gave 15% or more of their annual income to charity, and 17% intended to leave 30% or more of their fortune to charity.

In fact, about a dozen philanthropists outside the U.S. have joined the three-year-old Buffett-Gates Giving Pledge initiative, with the two most recent pledge signers coming from Britain and Taiwan.

The Forbes Insights study found that philanthropists were very much creatures of their geography, with motivations and causes defined by cultures, social needs and economies.

In the Middle East, 63% of respondents said religious faith was the main motivation for their philanthropy. A desire to give back to society was the main driver for 25% of Asian respondents. Seventeen percent of European donors were equally motivated by family legacy, altruistic desire and a sense of duty.

Health was the overall main focus of 63% of survey respondents, though regional differences asserted themselves. Sixty-five percent of Middle Easterners were chiefly focused on social change.

Philanthropists across all regions were united in their reluctance to publicize their giving. Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they either insisted on remaining anonymous or did not actively tout their charity.

Forty-nine percent of European respondents said they regularly used social media to advance causes, while 48% of Asian donors said they occasionally did this. Fifty-seven percent of Middle Easterners said they never used social media to promote causes.

The survey also showed that philanthropists under age 30 in the three regions differed from the overall survey sample in these ways:

  • Much likelier to be motivated by personal experience in choosing area of focus:  20%
  • Much less likely to be motivated by religion: 17.5%
  • More generous: 17.5% gave at least a quarter of annual income to charity
  • Likely to more actively promote philanthropy: 45%
  • More likely to promote causes on social media: 82.5

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Read 9 Philanthropists Join Buffett-Gates Giving Pledge Initiative on AdvisorOne.

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