A National survey found that 71 percent of American adults (age 18 or older) either have no will or have a will that leaves nothing to charity. The survey, conducted for The Nonprofit Times, also found that only 21 percent of American adults had a will and are allotting funds within that will to charity. Results from the same study conducted three years ago concluded that just 52 percents of Americans didn’t have a will or were not leaving money to charity.
As previously reported by Giving USA in 2009, bequest giving accounted for 8 percent of all giving, equaling a total of $23.8 billion. Survey respondents were broken down by ethnicity and gender in the study. Hispanics have the largest percentage of respondents without wills; coming in at a staggering 86 percent, 69 percent of African Americans and 51 percent of Caucasians did not have wills. Respondents who do not plan to leave money for charity in their wills broken down by ethnicity are: 93 percent of Hispanics, 80 percent of African Americans, and 60 percent of Caucasians. Women are a tad more likely to make a bequest at 23 percent compared to 19 percent of men. However, men are 2 percent more likely to have a will than women are.
Other factors affecting the likelihood of having a will include having children and education level. Between 70 and 74 percent of those respondents with children have wills as opposed to just 48 percent of those respondents without children. 29 percent of respondents with a college education had a will, while 21 percent of people without college educations said they had wills. However, experts in planned giving say only two factors truly affect whether or not someone has a will in which they plan to make a bequest and those are generosity and passion.
According to Melissa S. Brown, managing editor at Giving USA, “There are consistently lower percentages with a charity in a will in 2010 than in 2007- income, household size, children in household, education level, etc. This is not a result related to changes in income or wealth, but something else going on.” Indeed, with the economy in a shaky condition, everyone seems to be more inclined to save than to give. Those who do have money left to give want to leave it to family rather than to charity. Planned giving executive, Roger Ellison, says, “Right now, I don’t think people feel wealthy. Those with means are feeling stress. I don’t think there is a general sense of wealth in the country right now, even though many of us are wealthy. We live in a macro world economy that is stressed and we picked up that feeling.”