As many of you know, philanthropy is a significant focus of my life’s work. My goal is to facilitate, directly or indirectly, $1 billion to charity. In August 2012, we crossed the $100M mark and that is not counting a significantly wealthy individual with whom I played a significant part in accelerating his philanthropy. He would have given it eventually, but I helped him understand the power of giving it away while living, and how to do it with his closely held business operation. I am excited to provide you with a summary of three important studies concerning philanthropy. I will then discuss why giving is such an important component of family harmony.
Giving USA 2016
The Giving Institute’s Giving USA 2016 indicates that more people give today than vote (I don’t know if this reflects on the lack of qualified candidates for political office or just how generous we Americans are.) Total contributions totaled $373.25 billion in 2015, which was up 4.1% from 2014. The top three donor sources were individuals (71%), foundations (16%), and bequests (9%). And individuals in 2015 increased their donations by a whopping $9.77 billion from the prior year. The top three recipients of all that generosity were religious institutions (32%), education (15%), and human services (12%).
PNB Paribus Individual Philanthropy Index
Forbes Insights conducted the 2014 PNB Paribus Individual Philanthropy Index. They interviewed 414 high-net-worth (HNW) individuals with at least $5 million in investible assets. Sixty-four percent of HNW individuals in the U.S. saw an extremely urgent need for philanthropic giving. A more recent 2016 PNB Paribus report indicated that 38% of the HNW individuals surveyed plan to leave at least a third of their fortune to non-profit activities. The 2016 report also found that health (60%) was the leading philanthropic area of concern for HNW individuals in the U.S. (in Asia, by contrast, the environment (68%) was the most pressing concern.)
US Trust Study of the Philanthropic Conversation
A 2013 US Trust Study of the Philanthropic Conversation interviewed 312 advisors (wealth advisors, trust and estate attorneys, and accountants and other tax professionals) and 119 HNW individuals (at least $3 million in investable assets and actively engaged in philanthropy.)
The study indicated that many financial advisors underestimate their HNW clients’ desire to discuss their charitable goals and passions. HNW individuals desire a meaningful discussion about philanthropy early in the relationship. Thirty-four percent of HNW individuals felt that the topic should be raised during their very first meeting.
Additional key findings from this report are that:
- Ninety-two percent of HNW clients expect their advisor to bring up the topic by the 2nd meeting!
- Eighty-two percent of HNW individuals surveyed felt that the advisor plays an important role in their charitable giving
- Only 41% of the HNW individuals were fully satisfied with their advisor’s discussion concerning philanthropy
- The top three reasons why HNW individuals were philanthropic were a desire to give back (50%), passionate about a cause (45%), and impact on the community/world (38%)
- Advisors tended to focus on reducing taxes and enhancing the family/business name, which were factors for only 10% and 3%, respectively, of HNW individuals
Philanthropy is the “Glue” for Many Families
Time and again, I have seen how philanthropy can be the unexpected “glue” for many families. It can bring disconnected families together through a shared purpose. And for those who are already strong, it can make well-connected families even stronger. Further, philanthropy is one of the best teachers of character. It can break the cycle of selfishness that seems to permeate much of our Western culture today.