Skip to main content

Secondary navigation:

Wealth and Philanthropy

center on wealth and philanthropy

"Agent-Animated Wealth and Philanthropy: The Dynamics of Accumulation and Allocation Among High-Tech Donors."
By Paul G. Schervish, Mary A. O'Herlihy, and John J. Havens, Social Welfare Research Institute, Boston College. Final Report of the 2001 High-Tech Donors Study. 2001.
Through in-depth interviews, The Study sought to pinpoint the executives' motivations behind giving and the relationship between their business success and their charitable work. The Study looked to answer whether their views on giving represented a "new" philanthropy and whether the term "venture philanthropy" adequately captured their philanthropic approach.
Download Paper (pdf 189KB)

Download Executive Summary (pdf 26KB)

"America's Looming Philanthropic Revolution"

Paul G. Schervish. Comments shared by Paul G. Schervish at the GenSpring Family Offices 2007 Family Symposium. Published 2009. To provide some historical perspective on charitable giving, Paul offers highlights from an essay published in 1930 by John Maynard Keynes, the well-known British economist revered as one of the fathers of macroeconomics. In addition, he frams his comments in the context of the "4 M's:" Money, Meaning, Motives, and Moral Biography.
Download Paper (PDF)

“Capacity for Care: Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow”
John J. Havens & Paul G. Schervish. 24 January 2011.  

Before we look at the post-boomers, we need to know that the boomers will keep fundraisers busy at least three more decades. They are wealthier in total and per household than any previous generation and are just now coming into prime giving ages. For now and for several decades, these boomers will increasingly become the prime prospects for charitable giving (both inter vivos and testamentary). They will receive the greatest wealth transfer in history. But a substantially larger transfer wealth will be given by them than was given to them. 

Download Paper (PDF)

"Center on Wealth and Philanthropy Giving Model: Forecast for 2009"

John J. Havens and Paul G. Schervish. In Advancing Philanthropy Magazine. January/February 2010.

For the large diverse populations, such as that of the United States, household charitable giving is most strongly and consistently related to household income and wealth. Most national and state estimates of future charitable giving are based in large part on macro or micro values of income and wealth. Researchers can measure how changes in income and wealth, for example during the 2008-2009 recession, affect changes in charitable giving only when date on financial resources and their valuation become available. Fortunately, some of this financial information becomes available on a preliminary basis each quarter. However, there are no quarterly data on charitable giving. To date, researchers have been unable to generate estimates of household charitable giving (and their relationship to income and wealth) in as timely a way as may be useful for charities. Charities naturally would like to know estimates of charitable giving, for example, for the most recent quarter and to receive projections for the near future.

Click here to download the full article.

The Cultural Horizons of Charitable Giving in an Age of Affluence: The Leading Questions of the 21st Century.

Paul G. Schervish. In this essay, I set out a new approach to philanthropic decision-making that will have the potential to shape the cultural horizon of wealth and philanthropy to the same extent that the forthcoming wealth transfer is shaping the material horizon.

Download Paper (24KB)

"Empowerment and Beneficence: Strategies of Living and Giving Among the Wealthy." Final Report of The Study on Wealth and Philanthropy.

Paul G. Schervish and Andrew Herman. Presentation of findings from the Study on Wealth and Philanthropy submitted to the T.B. Murphy Foundation Charitable Trust, July 1988. This report presents the findings of a thematic analysis of in depth interviews with 130 millionaires about their business, spiritual and philanthropic biographies. We review the research design and methodology of the Study on Wealth and Philanthropy; locate the study of wealth and philanthropy within the general framework of the sociology of money; explore the themes of identity formation and world-building; and examine sixteen distinct strategies of philanthropy among the wealthy.
Download (pdf 308K)

"Extended Report of the Wealth with Responsibility Study / 2000." Paul G. Schervish and John J. Havens, Boston College, March 2001.
The purpose of the research was to develop a base of knowledge about the attitudes and practices of wealth holders, particularly as they relate to charitable giving and volunteering, attitudes about social issues, socially responsible investing, trust and estate planning, and the transfer of values to heirs. Thirty-minute mailed questionnaires were sent to 400 wealth holders with net worth of $5 million or more. The final report is based on 112 households.
Download extended report (pdf 88kb)

Download survey questionnaire (pdf 636kb)
Download summary report published by Deutsche Bank Private Banking (pdf 76kb)

"Geography and Generosity: Boston and Beyond."
Paul Schervish and John J. Havens. Boston, Mass: Boston Foundation, 2005.In September 2004, with funding form the Boston Foundation, the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College began a two-year study, Geography and Generosity: Boston and Beyond, focusing on individual generosity for regions, states, and metropolitan areas across the United States. This publication reports on the first year of research.

Download Paper (1.8MB)

"Giving in Today's Economy"
John J. Havens and Paul G. Schervish. Trusts & Estates. Published January 2009. Given the economic turmoil the United States is facing, this article seeks to articulate how the current economy will affect the philanthropic sector.
Download Paper (PDF)

"Gospels of Wealth: How the Rich Portray their Lives." Paul G. Schervish, Platon Coutsoukis, and Ethan Lewis. Westport, Conn: Praeger, 1994.
Twelve first-person narratives by the wealthy about their lives drawn from the interviews conducted for The Study on Wealth and Philanthropy. In addition to the transcripts, the book contains an introductory essay on "The Wealthy and the World of Wealth," a short thematic introduction to each narrative, and a concluding essay on interpreting autobiographical narratives.
Order ($20 including postage from SWRI)

"Major Donors, Major Motives: The People and Purposes Behind Major Gifts." Paul G. Schervish. In New Directions for Philanthropic Fundraising: Developing Major Gifts, edited by Dwight F. Burlingame and James M. Hodge. 16 (Summer1997): 85-112.
In this paper I attempt to explain what motivates the charitable giving of the wealthy, or more succinctly, the major motives of major donors. My research over the past twelve years has enabled me to distill an answer that is both simple and complex. The simple part is that what motivates the wealthy is very much what motivates someone at any point along the economic spectrum. The complex part about the charitable motivation of the wealthy is that those who hold great wealth and consciously direct it to social purposes invariably want to shape rather than merely support a charitable cause.
Download paper (pdf 1.81MB)

"Making Money and Making a Self." Paul G. Schervish. In Principality and Individuality: The Moral Careers and Moral Biographies of the Conscientious Wealthy by Paul G. Schervish. Under contract with the University of Chicago Press, 1990.
I analyze entrepreneurship as a moral career, a joint venture of making money and making a self. Drawing on intensive interviews with 49 entrepreneurs, I discuss how entrepreneurs move through four stages of world-building and self-construction.
Download paper (192KB)

"Migration of Wealth in New Jersey and the Impact on Wealth and Philanthropy"

In the first half of the decade 1999 - 2008, the net effect of migration for New Jersey resulted in a substantial increase in both household wealth and charitable capacity. In the second half, the direction of flow was reversed. The net effect of household migration resulted in a loss of substantial household wealth and expected amounts of charitable giving. The change was due mostly to a large decline in the number of wealthy households entering New Jersey between 2004 - 2008 and a moderate increase in the outflow of wealthy households leaving New Jersey. The result of the net loss in wealth was a net loss in charitable capacity, making it more difficult for charitable causes to raise money from New Jersey households.

Download Paper (PDF)

"The Mind of the Millionaire: Findings from a National Survey on Wealth with Responsibility."

Paul G. Schervish and John J. Havens. New Directions in Philanthropic Fundraising, Understanding Donor Dynamics: The Organizational Side of Charitable Giving. Edited by Eugene R. Tempel. Number 32, Summer 2001, pp. 75-107.
In this paper, we present some new findings on the intersection of wealth and beneficence, empowerment, and moral direction derived from the Wealth With Responsibility Study / 2000 carried out over two years from March 1998 to March 2000 for Bankers Trust Private Banking and, now Deutsche Bank Private Banking. The sample was 112 families worth $5 million or more. 28% were the extremely wealthy worth $50 million or more. The paper discusses the implications of the findings. What conclusions can fundraisers, nonprofits, estate planners, financial advisors, and other practitioners draw about how they can better help high-net-worth clients translate their financial wherewithal into an expression of their values in a way that responds to society’s needs?
Download Wealth with Responsibility Study Questionnaire (pdf 640KB)

Download Published Version of Mind of the Millionaire (3.6 MB)

"The Modern Medici: Patterns, Motivations, and Giving Strategies of the Wealthy." Paul G. Schervish. Paper presented on the panel, "The New Philanthropists," at the inaugural forum, "What is 'New' About New Philanthropy," of the University of Southern California Nonprofit Studies Center. Los Angeles, January 20, 2000.
This paper addresses three aspects of the relationship between wealth and philanthropy that can serve as foundations for understanding and influencing what I consider to be a forthcoming golden age of philanthropy: the large and exponential growth in wealth, the motivational array that inclines wealth holders to contribute to charity, and the array of strategies they use in carrying out their philanthropy.
Download paper (pdf 233KB)

"Money and Hyperagency: The Worldly Empowerment of Wealth."

Paul G. Schervish and Andrew Herman. Presented at the Conference on Money: Lure, Lore & Liquidity, Hofstra University, Nov. 1991.
This paper examines money in the form of financial wealth and moral capital. Our purpose is to articulate the distinctive characteristics of the wealthy as individual agents in contemporary American capitalist society. We argue that the wealthy are uniquely endowed with material resources and cognitive dispositions that enable them, both as a group and as individuals, to shape the rules, practices and positions of social structure.
Download paper (1.36MB pdf)

"Money and Magnanimity: New Findings on the Distribution of Income, Wealth, and Philanthropy." Paul G. Schervish and John J. Havens. Nonprofit Management & Leadership 8, no. 4 (Summer 1998): 421-434.
In this paper we address several additional empirical questions about variation in the level of charitable giving across and within categories of income. We interpret the findings to mean that the roots of generosity reside in an array of social-psychological factors that are more profound than the fact that people are rich or poor.
Download paper (904KB pdf)

"The Moral Biographies of the Wealthy and the Cultural Scripture of Wealth." Paul G. Schervish. In Wealth in Western Thought: The Case for and Against Riches, edited by Paul G. Schervish. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1994. 167-208.
In this paper I seek to make sociological sense of how the wealthy make moral sense of their wealth. The leading questions are firstly, how the autobiographical narratives of the wealthy take shape as moral biographies in which the wealthy recount their exercise of virtue to make more of what is given them by fortune? And secondly, what this reveals about the underlying social meaning of wealth in American society?
Download paper (3.25MB pdf)

"New Findings on the Patterns of Wealth and Philanthropy."

Paul G. Schervish and John J. Havens. Working Paper. (1) An update on the patterns of wealth and philanthropy using the 2001 Survey of Consumer Finances and reporting in 2002 dollars; (2) An update on the patterns of bequests using 2000 IRS data updated to 2002 dollars; (3) An update of the wealth transfer projections in 2002 dollars; (4) 20-year and 55-year projections for total charitable contributions (bequests and inter-vivos giving in 2002 dollars).
Download Report (pdf)

"The New Philanthropists."

Paul G. Schervish. Boston Sunday Globe's Big Idea Page, March 03, 2002.
With so much wealth in play, more and more individuals come to recognize at an earlier age that their financial resources exceed the material needs of themselves and their family. Our studies reveal that these wealth-holders are joining their older peers as the new philanthropists. They seek out rather than resist greater charitable involvement. They approach their philanthropy in the same entrepreneurial spirit with which they made their fortunes. And they are making philanthropy a key element in the financial morality they pass on to their children.

Download Article (1.8MB)

“Philanthropy's Indispensable Ally” Paul G. Schervish, John Havens, and Albert Keith Whitaker. Philanthropy. Volume XIX, No. 3, pp. 8-9. May/June 2005.

Most observers now recognize that lifetime giving understandably increases as people move up the economic ladder. CWP research also suggests that it's not just the objective size of people's pocketbooks that matters but also their subjective sense of financial security. Financial security means trusting that, even in the face of major economic downturns, one's means will support one's desired standard of living for the indefinite future. For people who feel such security, philanthropic decisions really are different.

Download Paper (PDF)

"Philanthropy's Janus-Faced Potential: The Dialectic of Care and Negligence Donors Face."

Paul G. Schervish. Published in Taking Philanthropy Seriously: Beyond Noble Intentions to Responsible Giving. Edited by William Damon and Susan Verducci. Indiana University Press, 2006.
Wealth-holders are capable of both extraordinary care and extraordinary carelessness in carrying out their philanthropy. This Janus-faced potential of philanthropy is explored as the dialectic of care and impairment, negligence, or dominion. This chapter explores this dialectic, drawing on intensive interviews with wealth-holders about their lives and philanthropy.
Download Paper (PDF)

"Recent Trends in the Timing and Allocation of Charitable Giving."
Paul Schervish and John Havens. Philanthropy Magazine. Published September/October 2007. Examines recent trends in the field of philanthropy and their effect on charitable giving.
Download Paper (PDF)

"Religious Discernment of Philanthropic Decisions in the Age of Affluence"

My focus here will be on a religious discernment process as a   wealth holders in the allocation of their wealth. The hope is that religious discernment – as a key element of religious giving – will shape the spiritual horizons of wealth and philanthropy to the same extent that findings on the ongoing wealth transfer are shaping the material horizons…

Download Paper (1.2 MB)

“Social Indicators of Philanthropy by State 2008 Release”

John J. Havens & Paul G. Schervish.

In November 2005 the Boston Foundation Released its report, Geography and Generosity: Boston and Beyond, prepared by the current authors of this report, John J. Havens and Paul G. Schervish from the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College (CWP). One of the primary objectives of the 2005 report was to present three social indicators of charitable giving relative to financial capacity for the entire population of each state and the District of Columbia. This current repoty updates the 2005 and 2006 reports. Its indicators are for giving relative to income in the 2005 calendar year. 

Click Here to View Full Article

"The Sound of One Hand Clapping: The Case For and Against Anonymous Giving." Paul G. Schervish. Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations 5, no. 1 (1994): 1-26. (Republished here by kind permission of Voluntas.)
The paper draws on intensive interviews with 130 millionaires to explore the case for and against anonymous giving, to indicate a number of key findings about anonymous giving among the wealthy, and to describe the potential of anonymous giving to raise both the level of care and control in philanthropic relationships.
Download paper (pdf 1.6MB)

"Taking Giving Seriously". Paul G. Schervish with essays by four philanthropists (Obie Benz, Peggy Dulany, Thomas B. Murphy, and Stanley Salett). Indianapolis: Indiana University Center on Philanthropy, 1993.
In analytical essays and personal narratives about having and sharing wealth, the contributors reveal clearly the two sides of philanthropy--its obligations and opportunities. Useful as a guide for active or potential philanthropists, as well as for scholars and fundraisers, this publication gives valuable insight into the motivation of the wealthy to give and the moral and philosophical elements of giving.
Order ($12 including postage)

"Is Today's Philanthropy Failing Beneficiaries? Always a Risk, But Not for the Most  Part"

Paul G. Schervish, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Volume 36 Number 2 June 2007, pages 373-379, edited by Wolfgang Fielefeld and Dwight Burlingame, Sage Publlications.  This paper is a commentary on a paper written by Ostander regarding the supply or donor-led character of philanthropic relationships.

Click here to read full paper

"Today's Wealth Holder and Tomorrow's Giving: The New Dynamics of Wealth and Philanthropy."

Paul G. Schervish. Journal of Gift Planning. Vol. 9, no. 3. 3rd Quarter 2005. Pp. 15-37.
Increasing numbers of individuals are approaching, achieving, or even exceeding their financial goals at younger and younger ages. A level of affluence that had been rare has come to characterize large groups and even whole cultures. In the context of an ongoing intergenerational transfer of wealth, the author examines demographic and spiritual trends that are motivating wealth holders to allocate an ever-greater portion of their financial resources to charity.

Download Paper (431K)

"Towards a General Theory of the Philanthropic Activities of the Wealthy."
Paul G. Schervish, Andrew Herman, and Lynn Rhenisch.Annual Spring Research Forum of the Independent Sector, New York, NY, Mar. 13-14, 1986.
The most important theoretical point to be made about the distinctive contribution of wealth to an understanding of philanthropy is that wealth affords individuals the means for moving from being simply consumers of the social agenda to being producers of it. In economic terms, philanthropy helps translate those needs and preferences into effective demand by providing the means by which individuals or organizations can engage in concerted efforts to achieve their goals.
Download Paper (903KB)

"Varieties of Philanthropic Practice Among the Wealthy."

Paul G. Schervish and Andrew Herman. Annual Spring Research Forum of the Independent Sector, New York, NY, Mar. 19-20, 1987.
In this article, the authors provide a tentative answer to a vexing statistical question about the level of charitable giving in the United States: Why does the Independent Sector's (IS) Survey of Giving and Volunteering consistently estimate personal contributions to nonprofit organizations to be 65% to 75% lower than corresponding estimates reported by the American Association of Fund-Raising Counsel (AAFRC).
Download paper (1.99MB pdf)

"Wealth and the Commonwealth: New Findings on the Trends in Wealth and Philanthropy." Paul G. Schervish and John J. Havens. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, vol. 30,no. 1, March 2001, pp. 5-25.
Drawing in large part on the1995 Survey of Consumer Finances, we describe the pattern of charitable giving by families at the upper reaches of income and wealth, as well as across the income spectrum. The overriding empirical motif is that the distribution of charitable giving is more highly skewed toward the upper end of the financial spectrum than previously documented, and that there appears to be a trend toward its becoming even more so.
Download (pdf 97KB)

"Wealth in Western Thought: The Case for and Against Riches."

Edited by Paul G. Schervish. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1994.
A series of seven essays by scholars from a range of disciplines analyzing the varied cultural consciousness of wealth from the vantage point of scripture, ethics, classical and Reformation literature, history, economics, and sociology. Each essay explores an aspect of the complex and often contradictory cultural inheritance of economic sentiment, feeling, and belief that frames the culture of wealth in contemporary America.
Order

“Wealth Transfer in an Age of Affluence: An Interview with Paul Schervish.” Interviewed by Pamela Gerloff. More Than Money Journal. Spring 2003. pp. 5-10.MTM: You have written elsewhere that, “The leading cultural and spiritual question of the current era is how to make wise decisions in an age of affluence.” Is that what you’re suggesting—that people in our society now have so many choices that wisdom is needed in making them?
Schervish: Aristotle understood that the goal of life is happiness—you could also say love , unity with the divine presence, or a whole range of things, but let’s just say that his term is one working definition of the goal of life. Happiness is achieved if you can close the gap between where you and those with whom you identify and care about are and where you and they would like to be.
Download Interview (pdf)

"Wealth with Responsibility Study/2000."
This study sponsored by Bankers Trust Private Banking was supervised by SWRI in conjunction with the University of Massachusetts at Boston Center for Survey Research. The purpose of the research was to develop a base of knowledge about the attitudes and practices of wealth holders, particularly as they relate to charitable giving and volunteering, attitudes about social issues, socially responsible investing, trust and estate planning, and the transfer of values to heirs. Thirty-minute mailed questionnaires were sent to 400 wealth holders with net worth of $5 million or more. The final report, based on 112 households, is available for download.

Download (pdf 76k)

"Wherewithal and Beneficence: Charitable Giving by Income and Wealth." Paul G. Schervish and John J. Havens. In Cultures of Giving II: How Heritage, Gender, Wealth, and Values Influence Philanthropy. New Directions for Philanthropic Fundraising, edited by Charles Hamilton and Warren F. Ilchman. 8 (Summer 1995): 81-109. Previous research that addressed the giving patterns of rich and poor has been based on data about income rather than net worth. The Consumer Finances Survey enabled us not only to extend the income analysis to the highest brackets but also to provide, to our knowledge, the first systematic findings on wealth and philanthropy.
Download paper (1.51MB pdf)