Food For Thought From Giving USA 2015

Wealthier Americans Leave Charitable BequestsAnyone who has been in or around planned giving for some time knows that most charitable bequests come from typical direct mail-type donors – $50 a year for many years – maybe your secret millionaires next door but certainly not your “leadership” donors.

But, take a look at Giving USA 2015.  The general rate of charitable estates in America is still about 5% of all decedents. Now, take a look again at our chart above.  Notice that the actual rate of inclusion of charitable bequests climbs from 15.7% for estates under $5 million all the way up to over 50% for mega wealthy Americans (over $50 million estates).

In other words, take a look around at your next board meeting. Ask yourself: How many individuals around the table fall into these potential estate levels?  Then, ask yourself: How many of these board members have we had any discussion about their legacy with our institution?

If your board has individuals with these wealth levels, easily 1/3 or more of them will include some charitable gift in their estates.  Will it be yours?


  1. Yes, and percentage of sitting board members with known bequest intentions for us is around 40% and suspect above 50% if one counts in those who chose not to self identify.

  2. Yes, very wealthy individuals do provide charitable bequests at greater rates than others. However, those charitable bequests are more likely to fund private foundations or DAFs rather than go to existing charities. So, it’s a bit of a mixed story. It’s also why charities should promote planned giving to all supporters.

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