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Financial Planning > Charitable Giving

Who's Giving, and How, and Why?

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If you’re working with clients and want to encourage charitable giving, whom should you talk to, and how? “There is some limited anecdotal evidence that the female in the household is often the lead in charitable giving,” reports Kim Wright-Violich, president of Schwab Charitable, the donor advised fund from Charles Schwab & Co.

Some of that evidence would come from a study released in May 2009 by Fidelity’s DAF, the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, which found that more women than men are the primary decision maker in their households in deciding how much charitable giving to do, and to whom they should give it. Moreover, while the majority of male respondents in the survey named their wives as the primary influencer in charitable-giving decisions, women said they had a broader range of influencers, including family members, friends, and co-workers. Women were also more likely–48%–to “strongly agree” on the importance of involving their children in charitable-giving activities, compared to 39% of the male respondents.

Grant-making is up among donor advised funds, reports Wright-Violich, “You don’t want to change how much money you’re giving your church or synagogue or your kids’ school,” she says, “just because this year you don’t need as much of a tax deduction.” That’s good for the charities, too, she says, not only because they receive the money, but because they can continue the activities that the donation funds year over year. So with a DAF, “you take the tax deduction when you need it,” because, she says, “this is like a savings account for charitable giving: fund the account when you have an appreciated asset, or when you have a high-income year, but then you grant evenly.”

Charitable giving is down only 5.7% in total, says Wright-Violich. “That makes sense,” she says, “since charitable giving is amazingly resilient.” She further points out that “most giving is occurring directly. Giving is amazingly resilient. In standard giving, if you haven’t set aside the money in good times, you’ll give up something else before you stop giving to your church or synagogue or hospital.” Americans, she says, “may delay buying a new car, may not take a vacation that they normally take, but they’ll make those charitable donations.” Finally, she says “there’s an interesting correlation with the overall economy–Giving is down exactly in proportion to the GDP.”