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Donors Who Mean Business

(June 30, 2008) High net worth business owners are dedicated donors who have incorporated philanthropy into their financial plans and will give steadily despite the economic environment, according to a recent study conducted by SunTrust Bank Private Wealth Management.

But they want to see results.

Nearly three-fourths of respondents say satisfying their personal moral beliefs drives their philanthropic impulses. They cite “helps make a positive change” as the top reason for charitable giving.

SunTrust surveyed over 200 high net worth business owners across the United States whose companies have at least $10 million in annual revenue, asking them about their philanthropic involvement and motivations.

Virtually all the business owners surveyed have made a charitable donation personally (96 percent) and through their business (79 percent). On average, in 2007 they report having donated over a quarter of a million dollars to charitable causes through their businesses and $78,000 personally or as families.

Seven in 10 agree that “even if there is an economic downturn that moderately affects my business, I plan to keep my current level of nonprofit or charitable giving in the coming year.”

High net worth business owners also are “charity multipliers,” in that more than half encourage employees to donate time and money to company charities. And one in three said they are willing to match donations made by employees.

About half (47 percent) of respondents sit on the board of a philanthropic organization, with the focus of the organizations typically on religious concerns, arts/culture, children's needs and healthcare issues.

In addition, over one-third (36 percent) have incorporated philanthropic giving into their financial plan. Among them, a number have written nonprofit organizations into their will (53 percent), set up planned giving (45 percent), and established a private or family foundation (44 percent).

An Eye on the End Result

High net worth individuals expect good returns from their philanthropic investment, SunTrust reports.

Nearly half (48 percent) of business owners say they “have regretted making nonprofit or charitable contributions to certain organizations that did not spend my money wisely.” An equal number said they have withheld money from an organization because of concern “the funds would not have been used wisely.”

“Business owners approach philanthropic opportunities in much the same way they approach business opportunities,” said Dave Johnston, senior vice president of SunTrust Private Wealth Management. “For them, it is important that the philanthropies they support are fiscally sound, so they can trust their contributions make a positive change.”

About the Report

GfK Roper Public Affairs was commissioned by SunTrust Bank Private Wealth Management to better understand the philanthropic habits of high net worth business owners. An online survey was conducted to reach this elite group. In total, 202 business owners whose companies have at least $10 million in revenue were surveyed. The survey was conducted in March 2008.

SunTrust Banks, Inc., headquartered in Atlanta, serves a broad range of consumer, commercial, corporate and institutional clients. As of March 31, 2008, SunTrust had total assets of $179.0 billion and total deposits of $116.2 billion.

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