Charitable giving is a top priority of many American investors, according to a Wells Fargo/Gallup study released Wednesday.
Ninety-three percent of upper-income investors said they had made donations to a non-faith-based organization in the past year, and 59% said they had given to a faith-based one. In total, 97% of study participants gave to one or the other.
Asked to value several activities in terms of their financial importance, nine in 10 investors each said living within their means or accumulating emergency funds were highly important. Six in 10 said they considered contributing or spending a portion of their income to help others a very or extremely important financial value.
Donating ranked above ensuring that companies they invest in align with their values, cited by 42% of investors, or having a positive societal impact, mentioned by 35%.
“These numbers confirm that giving is a top priority for many in the U.S. today,” Beth Renner, national director of philanthropic services for Wells Fargo Private Bank, said in a statement. “We see that in our business each day, as more and more people are seeking advice on how to make a difference with their charitable giving.”
Gallup conducted the poll in early October among 525 U.S. adults with at least $10,000 in stock or bond investments who reported annual earnings of $240,000 or more. This group, Gallup said, is equivalent to the top 5% of U.S. households.
Volunteering time to a charitable cause in the past year was less robust than donating among survey respondents. Sixty-four percent said they had put in time at a non-faith-based group, 37% at a faith-based organization and 25% at neither.
The poll sought to find out where donating to charity ranked in importance as a goal for upper-income investors’ children:
- Becoming financially self-sufficient, 99%
- Learning how to invest, 89%
- Attending college, 86%
- Donating to charity, 66%
- Owning their own home, 62%
- Volunteering in their community, 59%
- Getting a high-paying job, 54%
U.S. Political Climate Effect
The current U.S. political climate is significantly influencing upper-income investors’ financial giving, according to the poll. Forty percent of respondents said it was causing them to donate more than they did before, and 7% said it was causing them to donate less.
By contrast, 26% said current economic conditions were affecting their giving, 25% pointed to the 2007–09 recession and 25% cited recent tax changes.
The survey found that in the intersection of charitable giving and values, the political climate was having its greatest influence on upper-income investors who self-identified as Democrats, with 54% of this group saying they were giving more to charitable groups today.
Thirty-nine percent of self-identified independents also reported bigger donations, while only 18% of those who self-identified as Republicans said they had increased their giving based on the political climate.
“Philanthropy has often times been considered a ‘guardian of values’ in our society,” Renner said. “This survey tells us people are now giving or planning to give to causes that represent some type of philanthropic value they hold sacred.”
According to investors’ self-reports, current economic conditions have had a net positive effect on their giving and the recession and tax changes have had a net negative effect. Overall, upper-income investors gave an average $5,500 to non-faith-based organizations in the past year, with the median amount being $2,000.
About one in five upper-income investors in the study said their parents had been extremely or very active volunteers when they were young. Another 36% said their parents were somewhat active, and 40% said their parents were not active.
Among those whose parents were at least somewhat active, four in 10 reported that their parents had involved them a lot or a fair amount in volunteer work at the time.
The survey findings showed that upper-income investors whose parents were highly active in volunteerism were much likelier than those whose parents were only somewhat or not at all active to rate donating to charity as an extremely important financial value. They were also more likely to stress how important it was that their children donate to charity and volunteer in their communities.
Upper-income investors whose parents were extremely or very active volunteers reported giving $8,203 to charity in the past year, compared with $5,482 for those whose parents were only somewhat active and $4,179 for those whose parents were not active.
“Parents want their children to be good citizens and active in giving back,” Renner said. “When parents are more active in volunteering and giving back, their children will most likely continue that trend.”