Giving with purpose
How affluent households contributed in 2022
Affluent households make up a large proportion of all charitable giving in the United States; understanding the priorities and motivations that underlie and shape affluent philanthropic engagement is key to understanding philanthropy overall.
Comparison of affluent households and general population households giving over time
(Incidence and amounts)
That’s why Bank of America partnered with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy to develop the 2023 Bank of America Study of Philanthropy: Charitable Giving by Affluent Households—the ninth in the biennial series on the philanthropic behaviors of affluent households in the United States.
- The affluent continue to lead in charitable giving
- Volunteering is on the rebound among affluent Americans
- Affluent Americans leverage a robust toolkit of strategies to achieve philanthropic goals
- Affluent women are a force for change in the philanthropic sector
- Religious organizations continue to receive the largest share of giving dollars by affluent households
- The future of philanthropy relies on engaging the next generation of affluent Americans
What motivates affluent Americans to donate their time and money?
Guided by their values and beliefs, affluent households continue to lead in charitable giving, with 85% giving to charity in 2022. More than half of affluent households in America (54%) say their giving is very linked to the issues they care most about.
But with seemingly countless nonprofits and causes to choose from, how do affluent donors decide what to support? Nearly seven in 10 affluent donors said their personal values or beliefs led them to support specific nonprofits, and six in 10 indicated their interest in an issue area led them to give.
Reasons affluent donors give to causes/organizations3
In addition to giving, affluent volunteers spent an average of 135 hours volunteering with an average of two different organizations in 2022. The top three activities performed by affluent volunteers were: volunteering for a religious organization or ushering; collecting and/or distributing food, clothing or other basic need items; and serving on a board for a charitable organization.
There are many reasons for and benefits of volunteer work, including personal fulfillment. When asked how personally fulfilling affluent individuals found their volunteering to be, 62% said this form of charitable activity was very or completely fulfilling.
Beyond making financial gifts and volunteering, many affluent households create positive change, take action and express their values using various tools as both consumers and investors. Most affluent Americans (79%) say they sometimes or always align their purchasing decisions with their values. Twenty-two percent of affluent individuals indicated they had a charitable giving vehicle they use to make charitable gifts, and 54% of affluent households with a net worth between $5 million and $20 million have or plan to establish a giving vehicle within the next three years.
In 2022, 4.9% affluent households used a donor-advised fund to facilitate their giving. Their top reasons for doing so were tax considerations, ease of administration, and charitable impact.
Looking at some standouts: Affluent women, religious organizations and generational philanthropy
Our study found that affluent women are driving positive change through their economic influence and strategic philanthropy. Eightly-five percent of affluent household charitable giving decisions were made or influenced by a woman, and significantly more women (42%) than men (33%) spent time volunteering in 2022.
Not only were affluent women at the forefront of philanthropic activities in 2022, they were also significantly more likely to select women’s and girls’ issues as one of their top three most important causes/issues compared to men (17% and 5%, respectively). The top three of these causes included reproductive/health rights, women’s health, and addressing violence against women.
Percentage of affluent households giving
to religious/spiritual organizations over time
Religion was a focus for affluent Americans’ giving in 2022. Twenty-two percent of affluent individuals chose religion as one of their top three most important causes/issues, and religious organizations continued to receive the largest share of giving dollars by affluent households. The overall percentage of affluent households giving to religious organizations, however, has declined sharply—from 47% in 2020 to 39% in 2022.
In looking to the future, we found that next generation individuals (Millennials and Gen Z, born in or after 1981) were significantly more likely to indicate they sometimes or always align their purchasing decisions with their values compared to older individuals (those born before 1981). When asked about what causes/issues mattered most to them, younger individuals were significantly more likely to say climate change and education are more important to them, compared to older Americans.
Important causes/issues by age4
Not only do younger and older Americans rank causes/issues differently, their giving to charitable subsectors also differs. The top three causes/issue were areas where younger and older affluent American give at significantly different rates were:
Despite the economic uncertainty of 2022, the generosity of affluent Americans remains, and it is clear that philanthropy among affluent households is a reflection of their personal hopes, beliefs and values. They choose to support their communities and its members through giving and volunteering, with the goal of driving positive change now and for future generations.
This year’s study, conducted in January 2023, reflects charitable giving and volunteering strategies in 2022. The target population was comprised of adults aged 18 and older residing in the United States whose annual income was at least $200,000 or whose total assets were at least $1 million (excluding primary residence) for the 2022 year. The median income and wealth levels of the participants exceeded the threshold, at $350,000 and $2 million, respectively (average income was $523,472 and average wealth was $31 million). As in the previous three studies, the 2023 study included oversamples of affluent donors based on age, race and ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. Statistically significant differences among these various segments are highlighted, where relevant. The final sample size for the study was 1,626 qualified interviews.
For a copy of the 2023 Bank of America Study of Philanthropy: Charitable Giving by Affluent Households, please contact your advisor.
1 Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Philanthropy Panel Study (PPS), https://philanthropy.iupui.edu/research/current-research/philanthropy-panel-study.html
2 Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Philanthropy Panel Study (PPS), https://philanthropy.iupui.edu/research/current-research/philanthropy-panel-study.html
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