Today, I stumbled upon a really fascinating research report on the future of charity created by Barclays Wealth. I got there via a short video clip from Reuters, which turned out to be worth little more than the reference. The Barclays report itself, however, is fantastic. It concludes that we are entering a new age of charity. You can read it here (opens .pdf). I took a few key points away from reading it.

The methodology of Barclays' research is pretty simple. They polled 500 high net worth individuals, asking various questions about their beliefs and attitudes towards charity. They also interviewed 20 philanthropy experts. The report focuses on wealthy donors in the U.S. and U.K.

The New Age Of Philanthropy

The report begins with this great timeline of charity:

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It shows that since the time of FDR, charity was kind of stagnant until the late 20th century. The government took a greater role in charitable causes during the Great Depression. Since donors were focused more on domestic charity during this time, they felt little more was needed from them due to the government's involvement. But recently, global charity began to take form, likely due to better global awareness through communications technology.

The next generation also looks to be promising for charity. The younger the age group polled, the more responsibility is felt to share their wealth (the baby boomers attempt to throw a wrench into this trend, but it still holds up pretty well):

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In fact, the wealthy believe their children will generally be at least as benevolent as they are, or even more generous:

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And the next generation of donors will be more concerned with global charity than we even are now:

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Wealthy donors today are also more interested in being involved in their charitable causes, according to the report. They don't want to just write a check.

The Effect Of The Recession

The future of charity may seem bright, but you might think that the present is suffering due to the economic downturn. That's not what this study finds. Shockingly, the wealthy put so high a priority on charitable giving that their only more important variable expenditure is education:

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How does that translate to giving before the recession? Pretty similarly:

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According to that chart, more than 75% of those polled say that compared to before the recession, they have either maintained their charitable giving levels or increased them. During the recession the rich arguably lost a greater portion of their wealth than most other groups of people, as virtually all investments have suffered. But that hasn't stopped many of them from giving.

A Few Other Things To Note

I noted a couple other interesting observations. The wealthy might not have much faith in the government solving the healthcare problem. They see health/medical as the most important cause over the next 10 years.

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This chart also shows that wealthy individuals are becoming increasingly less interested in religion. That might not be surprising to many, but the arts -- traditionally a huge pet charity of the rich -- may suffer as well.

As for that government assistance started during the Great Depression, the rich seem unconvinced that it will keep up, given national debts. The youngest age group is especially pessimistic:

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Finally, Americans are still a generous bunch. U.S. giving levels far exceed that in the U.K. Women also tend to be more benevolent than men.

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