These donors do charitable giving better — here's what you can learn from them

  • Entrepreneurs consistently give more money and time to causes they believe in, compared with other individuals.
  • Their approach to philanthropy is informed by their business experience in two key ways: by getting involved and taking risks or by finding the right professionals to guide them.
Warren Buffett and Bill Gates attend the Forbes' 2015 Philanthropy Summit Awards Dinner.
Dimitrios Kambouris | Getty Images
Warren Buffett and Bill Gates attend the Forbes' 2015 Philanthropy Summit Awards Dinner.

Many of us aspire to give to charity, but when it comes to putting our money where our mouths are, it turns out one group of professionals consistently gives more: entrepreneurs.

That's according to a recent study from Fidelity Charitable, which found that entrepreneurs' median annual donation is 50 percent higher than that of non-entrepreneurs: $3,577 annually, versus $2,383 given by others.

In addition, entrepreneurs give more of their time than non-entrepreneurs do. Sixty-six percent of entrepreneurs volunteer two or more hours per month, compared with 55 percent of other donors who do so.

Those business owners typically fall into two camps, said Karla Valas, head of advanced planning at Fidelity Charitable, an independent public charity.

Make every penny count

Many individuals who start businesses are super self-directed and are learning and talking to their peers all the time.

This attitude carries over to their charitable giving, Valas said, where many business owners are actively taking ownership over their philanthropic strategies.

"They're really focused in on making every penny count in every aspect of their lives," Valas said. "For many of them, they have started their business in the proverbial garage and they were working for nothing, paying themselves nothing, and so they have had to make every penny count."

Their charitable giving, in turn, mirrors that same approach, where they are researching, experimenting, taking risks and learning along the way, Valas said.

Build a team

Other business owners approach giving in the same way they run their business — through the advice and guidance of experts.

"Small business owners, entrepreneurs, depending on where they are in the life cycle of their company, they're the decision-makers as well as the doers, so they might not have the luxury of time to watch and learn and model," Valas said.

As a result, they rely on financial advisors and other professionals to help them accomplish their philanthropy goals.

The good news for donors is that both approaches will help you learn best practices for giving, Valas said.

"Those strategies are not great-kept secrets," Valas said. "They're available for self-directed consumers or through advice and guidance."

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