Thank you to David Joulfaian, an economist/researcher at the U.S. Dept. of Treasury, for unearthing the following statistic:
On average (based on IRS data from 1986 through 1997), charitable bequests during those years exceeded donors’ total lifetime charitable giving by 2.74 times. In other words, IRA data showed that the charitable bequests of estate tax paying donors/decedents on average were triple their during-life giving to charities.
A few caveats on the data – the analysis looked at estates that were required to file estate tax returns and their giving histories (as recorded by the IRS – all presumably itemizers). This means that not included in the numbers would be smaller estates. My guess is that the lower value gross estates might have higher rates of estate giving exceeding their lifetime giving.
This is not news to planned giving folks. I have always found it amazing how a simple bequest donor (someone who gave small amounts over life) might easily leave a bequest of hundreds of thousands of dollars and could exceed the total lifetime giving of the most VIP major gift donors – and by a lot! One person is on the radar, gets lots of attention and the other is off the radar, gets virtually no attention. Pretty ironic, if you ask me. In the end, the few dollars spent on promoting planned giving to the masses can sometimes go a lot further than all of the staff time and angst spent on the “high end” donors.
Take a look at this U.S. Treasury research paper if you want to see the details: U.S. Treasury Bequest and Giving Analysis