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The Wealthiest Philanthropists Believe Giving Is More Urgent Than Ever, But Are Giving Less

A new survey also breaks down fascinating geographical differences in our patterns of giving. U.S. donors give most to health causes, motivated by more personal experiences. In Europe and Asia, the environment tops the list of concerns.

The Wealthiest Philanthropists Believe Giving Is More Urgent Than Ever, But Are Giving Less
[Image: Abstract via Shutterstock]

Every individual philanthropist has a different giving strategy. But as we have discussed before, there are some overarching trends that can be sussed out, even among philanthropists in different countries. In the second edition of the BNP Paribas Individual Philanthropy Index, more than 400 philanthropists across the world with assets above $5 million each were asked about their giving habits. Here’s what the survey found.

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In the U.S., health is the top cause for philanthropists. Not so in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, where philanthropists are most concerned about the environment (no surprise, especially in pollution-heavy Asia). High net-worth givers also have different motivations for giving, depending on where they live. In the U.S., an individualistic nation, people are motivated by personal ties and experience. In Asia, givers are motivated by society. And in Europe, philanthropists are largely inspired by a stated desire to help others.

There are some similarities in givers across the world. Some 79% of people polled believe the need for philanthropic giving is either “urgent” or “extremely urgent.” Respondents in the U.S. and the Middle East, however, also believe their regions are more in need of philanthropy than the rest of the world. In the U.S., there’s a distinct reason for this, according to the report:

The heightened perception by Americans may be because they generally see philanthropy as an important factor much more than people in other countries. Philanthropy has been part of the fabric of American life for 200 years. In addition, in America, many organizations that in other countries are funded by the state, such as premier research institutions (e.g. Harvard, Stanford), as well as some medical research, are funded by private philanthropy. The philanthropic sector plays a much bigger role in the U.S. than in other countries.

Americans are also less focused on world events than residents of other countries, and a belief that American problems can’t be solved by foreigners also prevents local philanthropists from wanting to donate abroad.

Middle Eastern philanthropists are willing to wait to see results from their donations–55% of them will, according to the survey, wait over 25 years to see their money make a difference. In contrast, just 15% of Asian philanthropists are willing to wait for long periods of time. Donors in the U.S. and Europe also hope to see results in under a decade.

Even though donors believe giving is more urgent than ever, current and projected giving has declined in all three regions surveyed for the last BNP report (Europe, Asia, Middle East). The report speculates that givers may be waiting for political and economic instability to calm down before giving more money. Check out the full report here.

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more

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