What drives high earners to be generous with their finances?
One goal of Barna’s State of Generosity series—created in partnership with Gloo and multiple sponsor organizations—is to better understand adults who have great potential for charitable financial giving. As a season of year-end giving approaches, this article sheds light on key themes and motivations found among this benevolent group.
Let’s first offer a general overview of these generous individuals. For this study’s focus on high-capacity givers, Barna looked at U.S. adults whose annual income is $300,000 or more. The Barna team surveyed 79 respondents who fell into this category. Respondents were surveyed in 2022 and were asked to reflect on their giving practices in 2021. This group should not be considered representative. Overall, the sample leans Christian and tends to be older than the general population.
As nearly all high-capacity givers report making annual charitable donations to nonprofit organizations, the survey findings highlight notable patterns among an influential minority in the giving landscape.
1. High-Capacity Givers Are Aware of Their Influence
Whether through the wisdom that comes with age, their Christian faith or other factors, high-capacity givers feel a sense of responsibility for their wealth and want to steward their abundance well. This group is interested in using their influence to help address local and global needs.
Additionally, whether thinking of wealthy individuals in general or themselves personally, about half of high-capacity givers agree they should be giving more than others. Over half state that they’ve been the recipient of generosity, and another three-quarters say they were taught to be generous. They now have the means to leverage a financially significant response.
2. High-Capacity Givers Are Focused on the Big Picture & the Long Term
Nearly all high-capacity givers Barna surveyed regularly evaluate their financial planning. This is a group who wants to make wise financial goals and decisions, and they make it a point to reassess goals and adjust as needed.
Given the wealth they are stewarding, many in this group are less focused on daily provision and more focused on future preparation. The current and future financial goals of many high-capacity givers emphasize setting themselves up for retirement, maximizing investments and setting up a financial legacy for others.
3. High-Capacity Givers See the Spiritual Dimension of Their Giving
Researchers found that “serving God with my money” is the top financial goal for this group. Ultimately, these individuals are especially driven by religious motivations such as reflecting God’s character, giving back to God or becoming like Christ through their giving. They desire to reflect and glorify God and to bless others with their wealth.
High-capacity givers are also especially likely to see financial giving as a spiritual conviction and / or discipline. Not only do they desire to bless others financially, they see this practice as necessary in their spiritual walk. A percentage of this group says they pray through their giving decisions, and around one in five also says a pastor speaks into their giving habits.
These givers do not only gift their generosity monetarily—nearly three-quarters regularly volunteer their time as well.
As the financial gifts of people of means account for a significant proportion of giving, it’s important for church and nonprofit leaders to understand this group, whether they are fundraising with them, advising them or discipling them. High-capacity givers themselves say they are ultimately guided by a desire to reflect and glorify God and to bless others.
Ideally, churches, organizations and financial advisors have the chance to partner with a predominantly Christian, deeply thoughtful group to steward their wealth and support community transformation. Additionally, high-capacity givers can be catalysts or even mentors for generous activity among other groups.
Additional reading and resources on generosity:
- To learn more about who drives generosity and why, check out this article on the deeply personal reasons people give and grab a copy of The Giving Landscape—also available to read on Barna Access Plus—the first volume in our State of Generosity series.
- To explore the reality of church giving today, look at this article on perceptions of the tithe and purchase Revisiting the Tithe & Offering—also available to read on Barna Access Plus—the second volume in our State of Generosity series.
- To discover the joy and community of generosity, read this article on how generosity is a skill that many givers were taught and order your copy of Why Giving Is Good—also available to read on Barna Access Plus—the third volume in our State of Generosity series.
About the Research
About the Research
State of Generosity data on high-capacity givers: This data is based on a convenience sample of 79 high-capacity givers, collected in a survey conducted from March 25–29, 2022. This convenience sample represents a total of 79 online assessment completions by U.S. Adults with an annual income of $300,000 or more. Sponsor organizations assisted in recruitment for this sample. As a self-select-in convenience sample, this data represents a subset of respondents self-reporting income and is not a random or scientific sample.
Givers: U.S. adults who say they have donated any amount of money to charitable organizations, including churches or houses of worship, in the past year
High-capacity givers: U.S. adults whose annual income is $300,000 or higher
© Barna Group, 2022.
Since 1984, Barna Group has conducted more than two million interviews over the course of thousands of studies and has become a go-to source for insights about faith, culture, leadership, vocation and generations. Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization.
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