March 07, 2013 09:30 ET

SEI Survey: Great Wealth Brings Great Responsibility

Poll Reveals 82 Percent of Wealthy Believe Wealth Creates an Obligation for Philanthropy

OAKS, PA--(Marketwire - Mar 7, 2013) - While some people view charitable giving as a nice thing to do, the overwhelming majority of ultra-wealthy individuals see charitable giving as a necessity, according to a poll released today by SEI (NASDAQ: SEIC). The poll reveals that 82 percent of wealthy families believe that having more money means you have a greater obligation to be philanthropic. When asked what keeps them "up at night" regarding their charitable giving, more than 1 in 5 of those polled (22 percent) said they wonder if they are doing enough to make a difference. The survey reveals an increased desire among the ultra-wealthy to give a greater percentage of their wealth to charitable endeavors and to measure the impact of their donations more clearly. The survey, of more than 200 individuals representing families with more than $10 million in financial assets on average, was carried out by the independent research firm Scorpio Partnership*. 

Allocation and impact were two themes that came up frequently in the survey. While respondents on average currently allocate 12.2 percent of their wealth to causes annually, ideally they would like to allocate 19.1 percent on average. Additionally, the single most important factor the ultra-wealthy pay attention to when giving to an organization is evidence that the organization is having an impact (48 percent), followed by how the organization will use the donation (31 percent). More than half of those polled (51 percent) said that economic benefits, such as tax incentives, were the least important factor when deciding to give to charity.

"The results of the survey show that wealthy families view philanthropy as an important part of their lives and have big expectations when it comes to the amount they give, organizations they select, and how those organizations use those donations," said Michael Farrell, Managing Director for SEI Private Wealth Management. "Although philanthropy is clearly a very personal and emotional endeavor, many wealthy individuals are looking for a systematic way to manage charitable giving, as well as a means to quantify the impact of their donations. As these expectations change it becomes more important than ever for individuals to develop tangible philanthropy goals and to work with a partner to develop a plan for achieving them and measuring their success." 

When it comes to measuring the results of their philanthropic activities, nearly two-thirds of those polled (65 percent) consider "social impact" as their preferred measure, while slightly less than half (45 percent) prefer "numeric measures specific to the cause" (i.e. improved literacy figures, reduced health issues, etc.) to evaluate the results of their philanthropy. Only 1 in 5 respondents (20 percent) consider the "financial impact" as their preferred measure of results, while 16 percent do not measure the results of their activities.

While the majority of those polled said they want to allocate more of their wealth to charitable giving, the survey revealed insights as to why they aren't currently giving more. Nearly half of those polled (41 percent) said if they had more confidence that the level of their wealth would continue to support their lifestyle and their family, they would increase their philanthropic giving in a material way. Nearly the same amount (39 percent) said they would increase their giving substantially if the market improves their financial situation. The biggest non-financial barrier to increased giving, cited by nearly a third of those polled (32 percent), was finding something they could be more passionate about.

*Answer percentages may not equal 100 percent because respondents were able to select more than one answer. The survey results are part of an ongoing series that SEI has developed in collaboration with Scorpio Partnership to help gain front-line insights on wealth goals, behavior, and issues of ultra-high-net-worth families. For more information about the poll, please email

About SEI Private Wealth Management
SEI Private Wealth Management provides clarity into the complex issues faced by wealthy individuals and families so they can make better decisions for themselves, their families, and their communities. In September 2011, SEI Private Wealth Management, formerly the SEI Wealth Network, was named to the National Association of Board Certified Advisory Practices' (NABCAP) Premier Advisor list, published by the Philadelphia Business Journal. SEI Private Wealth Management is an umbrella name for various life and wealth advisory services provided by SEI Investments Management Corporation (SIMC). SIMC is a subsidiary of SEI. For more information about SEI Private Wealth Management, visit

About SEI
SEI (NASDAQ: SEIC) is a leading global provider of investment processing, fund processing, and investment management business outsourcing solutions that help corporations, financial institutions, financial advisors, and ultra-high-net-worth families create and manage wealth. As of December 31, 2012, through its subsidiaries and partnerships in which the company has a significant interest, SEI manages or administers $458 billion in mutual fund and pooled or separately managed assets, including $201 billion in assets under management and $257 billion in client assets under administration. For more information, visit