Wealthiest Donors Gave 9 Percent of Their Income in 2007, Study Finds
The study found that virtually all wealthy households — 98.2 percent — contribute money to charity. That compares with 70 percent of the U.S. population as a whole.
In 2007, affluent donors gave an average of $80,249, roughly 9 percent of their income.
While overall giving by affluent households dropped slightly from 2005 to 2007 when adjusted for inflation — as it did for the general population — that decrease was driven solely by those in the upper echelon of wealth.
Households earning between $200,000 and $5-million gave more, on average, to nonprofit groups in 2007 than they did two years earlier, but those making at least $5-million gave less.
Because the very richest people account for such a significant portion of total giving by the wealthy, donating an average of $855,200, that meant that overall giving from affluent households in the study dropped by 9.7 percent.
Patrick Rooney, interim executive director of Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy, suggested that the economic downturn may have hit the very wealthiest donors before other Americans.
“In 2007, the economy hadn’t collapsed the way it has now, but we were beginning to see some fraying around the edges,” he said. “That may have had a bigger impact on some of the high-net-worth households in a bigger way, and sooner, than it did on the overall economy.”
He pointed out, however, that the survey relied on data from a relatively small number of people who were worth more than $5-million, so the numbers may not be significant.
The year 2005 may also have been something of an anomaly for fund raisers, as donors responded in droves to the Asian tsunamis, Hurricane Katrina, and the Pakistan earthquake.
Arts Takes a Hit
Arts groups arguably suffered the most as the very wealthiest donors curbed their giving. Average gifts to the arts from donors in the survey dropped from $16,465 in 2005 (when adjusted for inflation) to $4,792.