AP Private | May June 2022

In the UK and the USA, affluent people compete to see who donates more. And what about Italy? To answer this question, Fondazione Italia Sociale and Finer Finance Explorer have conducted 1.375 interviews to people whose financial wealth stands between €500.000 and €10 million.

In Italy and, more generally, in Europe, the figure of the big private donor is less common and crucial. On the one hand, there seems to be no European Bill Gates or Warren Buffet; on the other hand, in Europe the leading actors of philanthropy have always been, first and foremost, foundations.

However, during the first stages of the Covid-19 health emergency, we witnessed to an outpouring of solidarity. It involved VIPs, important families of entrepreneurs as well as anonymous citizens, who made consistent donations worth millions of euros destined to supporting hospitals, the civil protection, and the red cross.

It was the very first time several consistent donations for one single cause kept multiplying, almost the result of a contagion effect produced by the media response to such acts of generosity.

The objective of Fondazione Italia Sociale is popular philanthropy, in which everyone’s contribution is necessary. However, the actions of those who own consistent resources is crucial, considering that in Italy there are over 300.000 millionaires.

According to the survey, 87% of affluent Italians donate. However, active participation is still low: only 14% of them work actively as volunteers, as compared to 75% in the UK.

In Italy, 85% of interviewees claim to donate to one organization only, a very different attitude compared to the UK, where 95% donate to more than one organization.

Italy prefers traditional causes: emergences (48%), medical-scientific research (45%), poverty (41%). Culture and environment remain last, despite their relevance to our country.

However, Italian millennials behave differently: they show higher awareness towards environmental matters (17%), they are keener on participating in voluntary work (27%) and in supporting it with investments in specific projects (50%).

However, the value of donations is still low: over one third donate less than €1.000 a year, only 6% donate over € 100.000 (vs 17% in the UK), and only 1% donate over one million. The average value of donations is between €1.300 and €11.000.

The most affluent are also the most stingy and donate less than 0,1% of their assets. And yet, donating feels good: moral gratification (71%), desire to make a difference (62%) and feeling useful (49%).

As for professional consultancy, traditional figures still prevail. Accountants, lawyers, and notaries are in greater demand than financial advisors or private bankers (48% vs 39%).

The choice of recipient depends on awareness and reputation (74% and 62%) more than on the cause (54%) or the impact (41%). The main obstacles to donating are the many requests which come from organizations (77%) and a lack of trust (69%).

There is ample room for improvement both in the third sector, invited to create a system that attracts big donors in a structured way, and in the industry of private banking, called to implement the services supporting philanthropic actions. On both fronts, the signs are promising, but there is still a long way to go.

Nicola Ronchetti