The School of Philanthropy
Research Studies

The 2010 Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy

Key Findings & Resources
The 2010 Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy

The 2010 Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy, sponsored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, offers new insights into the philanthropy of wealthy donors. Conducted by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, this year's research follows an initial landmark study published through this partnership in 2006, and another study done in 2008.

The 2006 and 2008 studies – which have become leading resources for the philanthropic sector for understanding the philanthropic behaviors of wealthy donors – are the largest surveys of wealthy Americans ever conducted on this topic. The new 2010 study is the result of random mailing to 20,000 households in high net worth neighborhoods across the country about their giving in 2009. This study reflects the attitudes and behaviors of more than 800 respondents throughout the United States with household income greater than $200,000 and/or net worth (excluding the value of their residence) of at least $1,000,000. The average wealth of respondents was $10.7 million. Half of those who responded had a net worth between $3 million and $20 million.

The latest study follows much of the same methodology as the initial 2006 and 2008 studies in order to identify key trends and to provide deeper insights into the motivations and attitudes of wealthy donors. For nonprofit professionals, donors, and charitable advisors, this study offers new information about how high net worth donors: involve others in their giving and make decisions about charitable giving within their household, encourage family traditions around charitable giving, and approach investment risk with their personal and philanthropic assets. The 2010 report also reveals new information about the level of confidence high net worth individuals have in societal institutions to solve domestic or global problems, and their awareness of philanthropic tools to advance social or charitable goals.

Similar to the 2006 and 2008 studies, the 2010 report provides insight about the motivations and attitudes of high net worth donors, the role of values in transmitting philanthropic values to their children/younger relatives, and a look at the kinds of volunteer services that expand their philanthropic reach beyond dollars donated. Nonprofit organizations will be particularly interested to read information about what high net worth donors expect from their organizations, hope to achieve through major gifts, and list as reasons why they stop giving to particular organizations. The 2010 report also reveals information on the role charitable or financial advisors play in high net worth philanthropy, including the initiation of charitable advice and the utilization of charitable giving vehicles.