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How Couples Give to Charity

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The vast majority of donors who are married or live with a partner make charitable giving decisions together and agree on those decisions, Fidelity Charitable, a major donor-advised-fund sponsor, reported Monday.

Fidelity’s report, “How Couples Give,” found that on average, only 11% of couples disagreed at times on which charities to support and how much to give based on those decisions. The majority equally supported organizations that were important to each spouse or partner.

The study also found, however, only half the donors surveyed said they discussed an overall charitable budget for the year, and less than a third discussed what assets to contribute.

Men and women also differed about who took the lead role in giving decisions and how equally they share in the decisions made with their spouses or partners.

An income increase may also influence how a couple gives. In a 2015 study of traditional couples, the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University reported that when the man’s income increases, the couple is likelier to donate to religious, youth, international and combined-purpose entities and to give larger amounts to those organizations.

When the woman’s income increases, the study found, the couple is likelier to focus on, and give more to, charities that provide for basic human needs.

Fidelity based its report on a 2016 survey of 694 of its married or partnered DAF account holders.

“This new report confirms what our donors already know: Giving brings couples and families together,” says Elaine Martyn, vice president of Fidelity’s private donor group, said in a statement.

“Philanthropy brings out the best in people, and learning what is important to your partner and supporting them brings out the best in you — all while helping a good cause.”

In other findings, the report said couples had discussion on these topics:

  • Which charitable organizations to support: 76%
  • How much to give to specific charitable organizations: 70%
  • An overall charitable budget for the year: 52%
  • What assets to contribute: 31%

Martyn said that although couples tended to agree on giving, the study found room for better communication. “A conversation about charitable giving is a real opportunity to reaffirm the values you share as a couple.”

Fidelity said couples could draw closer by integrating their giving decisions in their plans for the future, by discussing both what causes to support and when and how much to give, and by volunteering together or contributing to each other’s favorite charity.

— Check out Fidelity, Vanguard Report Increases in 2016 Charitable Giving on ThinkAdvisor.


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