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Survey of wealthy donors shows gifts to operations, effects of volunteering

November 12, 2010

The year of 2009 is long gone and the prime giving season for 2010 is upon us, but it’s still worth reflecting on results of a recent survey about the giving habits of wealthy individuals, conducted by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. In our experience, the findings reflect similar trends in donors, no matter how much money they earn or have.

According to an overview printed in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, more than 55 percent those surveyed made their largest charitable gift in 2009 for general operations, not to build a building or start a new program. In light of economic challenges for many nonprofit organizations, these dollars were important to “keep the lights on,” as one commentator said.

The Community Foundation made a similar decision for 2009 and 2010, allowing grantees to submit requests for operational dollars as part of applications for grants from Community Funds. We too knew the importance of making sure that our important nonprofit partners survived these challenging times and continued to serve growing needs.

The survey also showed a growing number of volunteer hours contributed by these wealthy donors, up to 40 percent who reported volunteering at least 200 hours in 2009 compared to 27 percent when the survey was last completed in 2007. Not surprising to us is the fact that the donors who also volunteered gave more than those who did not volunteer, $76,000 average for those who volunteered more than 200 hours compared to $46,000 for those who did not volunteer at all.

You can click here for a review of the study in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. The survey of giving and philanthropic habits in 2009 was answered by representatives of 800 households with earnings of minimum $200,000 a year or liquid assets of at least $1 million.

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