Partners in Charitable Giving: How America’s Couples are Redefining the Rules of Philanthropy

charitable giving

In the evolving landscape of charitable giving in the United States, a recent study sheds light on how couples decide on their philanthropic contributions. While the majority of American couples still make these decisions collaboratively, there is a noticeable shift towards individual decision-making, with a significant role being played by gender dynamics.

The Decline of Joint Decision-Making in Charitable Giving

A comparative analysis with previous studies reveals a declining trend in joint decision-making among couples regarding charitable donations. The research, published on March 16, indicates that about 62% of couples now decide on their charitable giving together, a notable decrease from the 73% recorded in 2005. This shift suggests an evolving dynamic in how couples manage their philanthropy.

Rise of Individual Decision-Makers

Concurrently, there is an emerging trend where one partner predominantly oversees the charitable choices for their household. Interestingly, women are more likely to assume this role, with 15% of women making these decisions independently compared to 12% of men. This development points towards a gradual change in gender roles within philanthropic activities.

Other Key Findings and Demographics

The study, based on a Women’s Philanthropy Institute survey conducted in May 2020, encompassed a diverse demographic. The survey participants, 3,500 individuals representing their households, reflected the national marriage and cohabitation rates. Notably, the survey included households of various gender combinations, ensuring the representation of LGBTQ couples.

The research also delved into other aspects, such as the impact of age, the presence of children, and the average amount donated. Older couples and those with minors are more inclined towards joint giving. Interestingly, men deciding alone tend to contribute higher amounts, whereas households with separate philanthropic decisions generally donate the least.

Factors Influencing Charitable Giving Discussions

The study reveals that individual thresholds for consulting partners on donations vary considerably. Couples with separate giving decisions or where men are the sole decision-makers tend to have higher thresholds for discussion. In contrast, those making joint decisions or where women lead the charitable choices engage in conversations over smaller amounts.

Satisfaction in Decision-Making

Despite the evolving trends, a significant majority of households express satisfaction with their approach to charitable decision-making. Approximately 75% of couples agree about the causes they support and the amounts they donate, indicating a harmonious balance in most philanthropic endeavors.

The Significance of These Shifts

The changing roles of women, both as economic contributors and decision-makers in families, have a profound impact on household giving patterns. This is crucial considering that the bulk of charitable giving in the U.S. is sourced from individuals and families, a trend that has been consistent for over four decades.

Beyond Financial Contributions

While the study primarily focused on monetary donations, it acknowledges that generosity encompasses more than just financial aid. Volunteering and advocacy are significant aspects of philanthropy, especially when financial resources are limited. The comprehensive understanding of these non-monetary contributions in household dynamics remains an area for future exploration.

Potential Impact of Recent Socioeconomic Changes

The survey’s timing, coinciding with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic repercussions termed the “she-cession,” could have implications for the data. This period, marked by heightened caregiving and parenting responsibilities predominantly shouldered by women, might have temporarily influenced women’s decision-making power in charitable giving. The long-term effects of these changes on couple dynamics in philanthropy are yet to be fully understood.

In summary, the landscape of how couples in the U.S. make decisions about charitable giving is shifting, reflecting broader social and economic changes. Understanding these dynamics is essential for grasping the full scope of philanthropic behavior and its future trajectory.

If you are a Legacy client and have questions, please do not hesitate to contact your Legacy advisor. If you are not a Legacy client and are interested in learning more about our approach to personalized wealth management, please contact us at 920.967.5020 or

This newsletter is provided for informational purposes only.
It is not intended as legal, accounting, or financial planning advice.

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