America’s political climate is spurring the richest 5% to donate more

The current political climate is spurring the richest 5% of US households to donate more.

Virtually all — 97% — of wealthy Americans gave to charity, according to a Wells Fargo survey conducted by Gallup. Nearly half of those surveyed said the amount they donated was affected by the current political climate, with 40% giving more than they did before and only 7% reporting they are giving less.

The survey included US-based investors with at least $10,000 in stock or bond investments who earn $240,000 or more annually.

Overall, this group gave an average of $5,500 to non-faith-based organizations in the past year, with the median amount being $2,000.

“We are seeing more demand for more conversations around philanthropy and its impact,” said Beth Renner, national director of philanthropic services for Wells Fargo Private Bank. “People want to do good, but they want to do good better.”

Political climate is driving giving

The political effect is strongest among Democrats, with 54% saying they are giving more to charitable causes today. Among Independents, 39% are giving more. Only 18% of Republicans said they increased their donations because of the political climate.

“Philanthropy is a values guardian,” said Renner. “Individuals are motivated to give based on how they want their values to be reflected in the world around them.”

With Republicans holding the White House and a majority in the Senate, it would naturally motivate more Democrats to give, she said.

“If it were flipped, the giving may be flipped as well,” Renner said.

The survey also showed that current economic conditions had a positive effect on giving, while recent tax changes like increasing the standard deduction — which decreased the number of taxpayers who itemize and reduced the number of taxpayers taking a deduction for charitable contributions — have had a negative effect.

“We are in an economic period where people feel they have more disposable income to share with others,” said Renner.

Women pushing for charitable impact

Women were more likely than men to say they donate because it is a personal financial value, a moral obligation and because they enjoy helping others.

“Women are making more of the charitable decisions in the household,” said Renner.

Women worry more than men about the idea of ‘philanthropic inflation,’ she said, where their charitable dollar doesn’t go as far as they’d like toward creating change.

Women were also more likely than men to say sharing the value of giving of time and money with their children is important. Nearly three-quarters of women versus 60% of men said it is highly important that their children donate to charity, while 68% of women versus 51% of men said it is highly important that children volunteer in their community.

Parents have a significant impact on instilling the value of giving. Upper-income individuals in the study who had parents that were active volunteers were more likely than those whose parents were not active to rate donating to charity as an extremely important financial value. They were also more likely to extend that value expectation to their own children and they contributed more to charity in the past year ($8,203) than those whose parents were only somewhat active ($5,482) or not active ($4,179).

“An individual’s level of philanthropic engagement is greatly influenced by their parents’ actions, and these findings reinforce that our past is present in our giving,” said Renner.