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Affluent Americans Boosted Charitable Giving in a Pandemic Year

Around 90% of affluent households indicated they had responded to the Covid-19 pandemic with donations to organizations that provide basic necessities such as food, shelter and health care.

(Bloomberg) -- Wealthy Americans boosted their charitable giving in 2020, finding new ways to donate and directing funds to different kinds of organizations even amid the economic disruption of the pandemic.

Average giving surged by 48% last year to $43,195 from $29,269 in 2017, the last time the survey was conducted, according to the results released Wednesday by Bank of America Corp. Nearly a quarter of affluent individuals who responded to the survey said they had made contributions to support social-justice and racial-justice causes.

“There was a philosophical shift that occurred in how donors approached their giving, the urgency around giving, the consistency,” Katy Knox, president of the company’s private bank, said in an interview. Donors were “drawn to causes that spoke to them and were seeking ways to make an impact and make it locally.”

Around 90% of affluent households indicated they had responded to the Covid-19 pandemic with donations to organizations that provide basic necessities such as food, shelter and health care. Despite pandemic lockdowns and social-distancing measures, a third of affluent households said they had volunteered time to a charity.

“There was tremendous need, and tremendous generosity based on that need,” Una Osili, associate dean for research and international programs at Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, said in an interview. 

Bank of America Private Bank and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI surveyed 1,626 affluent U.S. households with a net worth of $1 million or more or an annual income of $200,000 or more.

Digital donations and other tools for giving also expanded, said William Jarvis, a philanthropy executive at BofA’s private bank. “While it’s still too early to tell if it’s long-lasting, the models of flexible forms of giving including digital apps and multi-year commitments are encouraging signs for non-profits, as well as the social sector more broadly,” he said. 

The top three types of charities supported by affluent donors were basic needs, religion and health. The highest aggregate dollar amounts were donated to religion, basic needs and education, survey results show. 

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