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New Study Creates Profiles of Wealthiest Households

(Feb. 4, 2008) A new study develops philanthropic profiles of the wealthiest 3 percent of U.S. households based on their preferences and motivations and the process they use in giving

Portraits of Donors, conducted by Bank of America and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, was based on a random survey of more than 30,000 households in high net-worth neighborhoods across the United States, with more than 1,400 responses. Using statistical data from the survey, the study identifies 12 archetypes that can help define donor behavior and motivation.

All the archetypes in the study have a net worth of more than $1 million or have an income of more than $200,000 annually. Approximately 80 percent of the sample has a net worth of $2 million or more.

  • The Very Wealthy: Households with a net worth of $50 million or more
  • The Bequeather: Households that report having a provision in their will where they will leave 25 percent or more to charity
  • The Devout Donor and Secular Donor
    • The Devout Donor: Those households attending religious services weekly (or more often) and donating to religious causes
    • The Secular Donor: Households that do not attend religious services and do not give to religious causes
  • The Entrepreneur: Households with 50 percent or more of their net worth in entrepreneurial assets
  • The Dynast: Households that give their children money, which the children use to donate to charity
  • The Metropolitan: Those households whose primary residence is in a city with a population of 500,000 or more
  • The High-Frequency Volunteer: Donors who reported volunteering more than 200 hours per year
  • The Strategic Donor and Transactional Donor
    • The Strategic Donor: Households that have created foundations and/or donor-advised funds and that give to relatively few subsectors
    • The Transactional Donor: Donors who have given to many or all of the subsectors and who have not created a foundation or donor-advised funds
  • The Altruistic Donor and Financially Pragmatic Donor
    • The Altruistic Donor: Households that report being motivated by a sense that “one should help meet critical needs in society” or that “those with more should help those with less,” although “they would not give more to charity if they received a better return on their financial investments.”
    • The Financially Pragmatic Donor: Households that reported being concerned about the “return on their financial investments” and “feeling more financially secure.”

Each archetype was tested empirically to ensure that it was significantly different from the rest of the sample, and the study included only those archetypes that met the criteria. In addition, it is possible that some donors may fall in more than one archetype.

The full report of Portraits of Donors can be found here. The study was based on earlier report conducted by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University on behalf of Bank of America and covered in a previous issue of eWire.

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