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Most wealthy U.S. households continued to give in 2020, study finds

  • PND
  • May 21, 2021
Older woman in mask with healthcare worker in mask

Nine out of ten wealthy U.S. households continued to give to charity in 2020, a report from Bank of America and Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy finds.

Based on a survey of more than sixteen hundred households with a net worth of at least $1 million (excluding the value of their primary home) and/or annual household income of at least $200,000, the 2021 Bank of America Study of Philanthropy: Charitable Giving by Affluent Households found that 88 percent of respondents reported maintaining or increasing their giving in 2020, and that 47 percent made a donation or financially supported an individual or business in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among respondents who donated to charity, 37 percent reported increasing their giving to organizations helping to meet basic needs or providing medical care, while 16 percent increased their giving to religious organizations and 12 percent increased their giving to other types of organizations.

According to the report, 2020 saw an increase in support for local community needs among wealthy U.S. households: 90 percent of respondents who boosted their giving to human service and health and medical nonprofits donated to local organizations, 35 percent donated to organizations working nationally, and 15 percent donated to international organizations. The study also found that donors gave more unrestricted funding in 2020, including 83 percent of survey respondents who supported arts and cultural organizations, 75 percent of those who supported health and medical organizations, and 74 percent of those who supported educational institutions.

In addition, the survey found that 31 percent of respondents said the organizations they supported reached out to them digitally more frequently in 2020, including via email (53 percent), virtual events and galas (43 percent), and social media (32 percent), while 27 percent reported more frequent contact via physical mail.

“In times of crisis, Americans have historically responded quickly and generously to assist others and address urgent needs,” said Una Osili, the Efroymson Chair in Philanthropy at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “During the pandemic, unrestricted giving by affluent Americans supported continuing operations at many nonprofits, enabling them to continue serving their communities, and was a significant aspect of giving behavior during the pandemic. Additionally, many households expanded giving by donating to local businesses and individuals during the pandemic.”


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