Ninety-five percent of America's wealthiest households donated to at least one charity last year, with donations averaging $53,000.

That's down 7 percent from 2009, when the average gift was $56,600, according to a new study by the Bank of America and Indiana University's Center on Philanthropy.

The biannual study, based on a survey of households with incomes of more than $200,000 or net worths of more than $1 million, offers a clear window into the preferences of some of charities' most sought-after donors.

It found:

• The more time wealthy people volunteered for nonprofits, the more generous they became. People who volunteered more than 100 hours a year gave an average of more than $78,000, which was roughly twice as much as folks who volunteered less.

• The rich don't like to be pestered. Nearly a third of wealthy donors stopped giving to at least one organization last year. The biggest reason: too frequent solicitations and/or asking for too much money. A change in leadership was the second biggest reason.

• They want to be emotionally moved: 74 percent said they were motivated to give by knowing their gift could make a difference. Another two-thirds said they were motivated by a charity's efficiency, or because they felt good about being able to support the same organizations and causes year after year.

• The rich are optimistic about their future philanthropy. Seventy-six percent said they planned to donate as much money or more to charities in the five years ahead.

• Wealthy donors are more likely to give to education (80 percent), basic needs (79 percent) and arts and culture (68 percent).

• More than a third of the rich earmarked their largest gifts for churches and religious groups. One in four made their biggest contribution to educational organizations.

The 77-page report can be found at

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511