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The wealthy 'feel morally obliged to give'

There is an increasing desire among wealthy people to give more money to charitable causes, but they often find philanthropy isn’t straightforward, according to SEI's Jeff Ladouceur.

There is an increasing desire among wealthy people to give money to charitable causes, but they often find philanthropy isn't straightforward, according to SEI's Jeff Ladouceur.

Ladouceur, who is a director at the asset management and technology firm, told CampdenFB: "[The wealthy] think they can make a difference because they have the financial means, but find what seems simple is actually quite complex."

He was commenting following the publication of a study by SEI and research group Scorpio Partnership, which looked at 200 US-based people from families with investable assets of at least $10 million (€7.7 million). Although respondents felt a moral obligation to give to charity – 82% believed those with greater wealth had a greater responsibility to give to charitable causes – some were unsure where to direct their cash. A fifth were worried they weren’t doing enough philanthropically.

"They want to help, not give money. But they give money to help," said Ladouceur.

The study found 32% would give more if they could find a cause they were passionate about – overall, respondents gave on average 12.2% of their wealth annually, but wanted to see this figure increase to 19.1%, according to the research.

Ladouceur said the wealthy were concerned about giving large sums blindly to complicated charitable organisations. “They want to see the money filter through and make a difference,” he added.

To this end, when deciding which organisations to give to, evidence of social impact was the most important factor for 65% of respondents.

If non-government organisations and charitable causes could prove their effectiveness, the average level of giving among high net worth individuals could increase dramatically, said Ladouceur. "They have to be able to show they are really making a difference through both quantitative and qualitative data. But there is a lot of momentum, a lot of thrust, for an increase in average giving."

He said it was best for wealthy people to try different approaches when first becoming involved in philanthropy, rather than putting everything into one foundation or organisation. “We advise clients to try different areas, and then usually they will come to a more precise view of their mission and how they will measure success," he added.   

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