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Why donors give: Insights from our 2015 global philanthropy survey

Jeff Hoffmann
Private Client Services

Philanthropy is such a personal thing that it isn’t surprising that there is a wide variety of reasons why people become philanthropists.

Rear view of three volunteers with arms linked.Even though 35% of respondents globally cited choosing among a large number of potential causes was the most difficult part of giving, the good news is that once again overall giving has increased in every region, according to research published in the BNP Paribas Individual Philanthropy Index Report, regardless of the motivation. And while most philanthropists have a fervent desire to do good for society, the underlying reason and the supported causes for their philanthropy differ depending on a number of factors.

Top motivators of philanthropy

Globally, 52% gave out of a sense of duty, but of respondents in the Middle East, only 42% cited this as a primary motivation. European philanthropists cited this exactly 52% of the time, and Asia had a strong response at 62%.

In second place overall, the desire to give back to society was actually the top reason in both the United States at 50% and in Asia, where it was the primary motivation for 64%. This response in Asia represented the highest rating for any of the motivating factors in any region.

An altruistic desire to help others gathered the third highest rank, with respondents citing this as their motivation 46% of the time overall. Once again Asia led the group in reporting this as an important reason for philanthropy at 60%. Interestingly, this did not appear at all among the top five for the United States.

Religious faith was fourth, cited by 40%. It was in first place in the Middle East, where 54% of respondents named religious faith as their primary motivation. The United States named this as the primary motivator 43% of the time.

Many philanthropists target their giving to causes with which they have personal experience. This was the reason given by 40% of U.S. respondents and 50% of Asia.

Several regions, including Europe, the United States and the Middle East, cited a family legacy as the reason for supporting their causes. Despite strong showings in Europe and the U.S., family legacy did not make the top five motivators globally.

Causes that attract the most donors

The top area for philanthropy was health at No. 1 across all regions, with 70% in Asia and 67% in the Middle East naming this as the leading priority. The global average was 65%.

Health was followed by environmental concerns at 52% globally, although the environment ranked fourth in the Middle East. Education, which was third on a global basis, was the second highest priority for giving in the Middle East, with 49% naming education as a key focus area for their efforts.

Europe and Asia both ranked social change, diversity and inclusion higher than education, at 40% and 52% respectively. Religion was third in the Middle East, but did not appear in the top five of any other region.

Chart graphic showing top causes for philanthropy in 4 regions of the world

Despite the variety of causes and the varying motivations, global philanthropy continues to grow — and fully 27% of philanthropists insist on keeping their involvement anonymous, and another 16% don’t actively publicize their giving. Nearly 17% actively publicize their efforts to increase the visibility of the causes they support and others include it in their public relations efforts.

Regardless of the reason or the cause, I’m grateful to see that the spirit of philanthropy is healthy in every region of the world.

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