What motivates the ultra wealthy to give?

Wealth-X conducted an Attitudes Survey in conjunction with Knight Frank to gain insights into the perspectives and behaviors of the ultra wealthy around wealth management, philanthropy, wealth transfer and more. The survey was based on the views of around 400 of the world’s leading private bankers and wealth advisors who, between them, manage assets for about 45,000 ultra high net worth (UHNW) individuals with a combined wealth of over US$500 billion.

Although protecting their wealth is a preoccupation for many UHNWIs, giving much of it away is also important. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan made news last year when they pledged to give away 99% of their shares — currently worth US$45 billion — in the social media giant.

On average, 67% of those who took part in the Attitudes Survey said their clients’ philanthropic activities had increased over the past 10 years, with almost 80% saying activity would increase further over the next 10. In contrast, only 2% of respondents predicted that UHNWI philanthropic activity would decrease over the coming decade, and 17% said that charitable giving would remain the same.

Respondents were asked to select several main UHNWI motivations for giving wealth or time to charitable causes. Globally, the most popular driver of philanthropy was personal fulfillment, cited by 52% of respondents, followed by “a sense of purpose,” selected by 51% of participants. Rounding out the top 6 reasons for giving were “a sense of duty or responsibility” (48%), “to make an impact on others (36%), “to be remembered or to leave a legacy (36%) and “tax relief” (36%). Of the 13 motivations listed, the least popular were “opportunity to interact with their family members” (11%) and “to ensure their children’s financial independence” (7%).

The regions with UHNWIs most concerned about “sense of duty or responsibility” in giving were Europe (60%) and North America (68%), compared to the global average (48%). North American UHNWIs are more likely to participate in philanthropy because it ties into their social activities, as cited by 42% of respondents in the region versus 23% globally. In the Middle East, the third most popular motivation for giving was religious beliefs (41%) — the highest value placed on that driver by any region. For respondents in Latin America, 25% said that the increased availability of advice on effective philanthropy was a key incentive for their clients, compared to the global average of 13%.

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