Interesting Bequest Data from Giving USA 2012

Yes, bequests were up again in 2011 according to Giving USA 2012 – reaching $24.41 billion (up 12.2% from 2010).  Nothing surprising there.

As I spend the next few weeks scouring the report/data and updating our presentations, I am sure that I will be reporting on some interesting tidbits.

Here is the first one.  Take a look at this chart – it should be self-explanatory:

Percentage of Group Leaving Charitable Bequests





Those who give $500 a year or more in philanthropy


Moderately wealthy – passing away with $3.5 million to $10 million


Pretty wealthy – passing away with $10 million to $20 million


Very wealthy – passing away with over $20 million in assets

The 5% figure is from several general sources; the 10% figure is from Professor Russell James’ research, and the other percentages are from the IRS (as reported in Giving USA 2012).

Even though common planned giving wisdom suggests that nonprofits need to focus on their entire giving database (not just those suspected of being wealthy), it is very interesting to note that the odds of receiving a charitable bequest clearly go up as your prospects scale the wealth spectrum.

Of course, did I fail to mention that Giving USA reports that half of the $24.41 billion in charitable bequests in 2011 went to Private Foundations?  That’s the challenge with the wealthier crowd.

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