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Philanthropy Brand Strategy #charity

How to understand the charitable giving of the ultra-wealthy

By Joanna Lewis, Head of content



The Drum Network article

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May 9, 2024 | 7 min read

The super-rich give away a substantial amount of their wealth, says Joanna Lewis of Relevance. From medical research to the environment, here are the ways they donate.

A golden heart shape made from gold discs against a red background

Ultra High Net Worth Individuals account for around 38% of global giving / Shutterstock

The world’s richest are showing an increasing interest in philanthropic endeavors according to a report by Altrata.

The Ultra-High-Net-Worth Philanthropy Report 2024 highlights that the world’s ultra-wealthy – individuals with assets of more than $30m – gave a total of $190bn to philanthropic causes in 2022, up 25% compared to 2018.

The world’s super-rich account for almost 38% of global giving despite representing just a tiny fraction of the population.

The report’s findings align with Relevance’s own audience profiling research, which shows that a significant portion of Ultra-High-Net-Worth Individuals (UHNWIs) are actively involved in philanthropic giving, including through their own charitable organizations. According to the report, one in five UHNWIs has a private foundation, increasing to 30% for those with a net worth of more than $100m.

As individuals become wealthier, they feel a greater obligation to give back, particularly in a world witnessing growing financial inequality, escalating environmental issues, and political instability. The evolution in Ultra-High-Net-Worth (UHNW) demographics, including the growing number of young, super-rich individuals, is also driving this change.

“When marketing to UHNWIs it’s vital that luxury marketers understand the current and evolving priorities and interests of the world's richest. There are significant gains for luxury brands that can tap into this wealthy cohort’s desire to give back through carefully crafted marketing campaigns,” Relevance’s CEO Rumble Romagnoli says.

UHNW numbers are growing

A major driving factor for the growing UHNW philanthropic landscape is the surge in the global UHNW population. According to the 2024 Knight Frank Wealth Report, in 2023 70 UHNWIs were created daily, a 4.2% rise compared to a year earlier.

Not only is the number of UHNWIs growing, but there has been a surge in the world’s super-rich, enabling an exclusive group of high-profile individuals to make larger charitable donations.

This growing wealth, coupled with shifting attitudes to civic engagement, has resulted in an upward philanthropic trend and, in some cases, a transformative and direct impact on charitable organizations and institutions.

The UHNW population in North America was the source of almost half of all global UHNW donations in 2022, giving a total of $91bn, up 20.8%, reflecting the long-standing tradition of public giving in Canada and the US.

By comparison, Europe’s UHNW population gave a third of all UHNW donations in 2022, totaling $62.9bn, up by 29%.

UHNWIs in Asia were the least giving, accounting for just 13% of global donations, despite being the second-largest ultra-wealth region. Total UHNW donations were $24.2bn, up 28.3%. The report highlights that more modest UHNW giving in Asia is partly due to cultural and regulatory factors, as well as a less developed non-profit sector.

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UHNW philanthropy by demographic

According to the report, ultra-wealthy donors are more likely to be male and over the age of 70. However, there are significant variations by region. One in six UHNW donors in Asia and Europe, for example, is younger than 50, whereas in North America, the share is just 5%.

The report also shows a clear correlation between the scale and proportion of liquid assets and giving, with the availability of liquid assets tending to increase with a person’s age and overall net worth.

UHNW women are a rising force and, as a group, are more likely to be philanthropic and have a private foundation. While the report states that women make up just 11% of the global UHNW population, they account for 22% of the larger givers.

According to the report, UHNWIs are drawn to philanthropy out of a desire to use their substantial wealth to make a visible and transformational impact on society.

The report found that there has been a shift away from more traditional philanthropic approaches that focus on donor’s interests, and instead, UHNWIs are more focused on reactive ‘crisis response’ such as providing funds for urgent targeted aid and humanitarian support.

The top charitable causes for UHNWIs globally are education, arts and culture, health care and medical research, social services, the environment, conservation and animals, children and youth development, and public affairs.

The environment is likely to become a growing charitable interest as wealth passes down to younger UHNWIs who are more likely to be environmentally aware.

Philanthropy Brand Strategy #charity

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Relevance is a strategic and creative digital marketing agency specialising in profiling and targeting Ultra-High-Net-Worth-Individuals for the world's most exclusive...

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