As the highest-paid professionals in our society, physicians represent a unique and interesting segment of the American population. Surprisingly little information is available on the actual charitable interests and giving patterns of medical practitioners, but then few studies have been done on populations of wealthy individuals. Knowledge of physicians' charitable behavior is limited to their provision of medical care without remuneration, but no relationships have been developed between these activities and other charitable practices.
A mail survey of 1,451 physicians in the San Francisco Bay Area was conducted during the months of September- October, 1986 to gather information on the charitable practices of physicians within 12 areas of giving and 9 areas of volunteer work. There were 531 respondents and 920 non-respondents, for a 37% response rate. The size of the random sampling and respondent populations has been determined to be sufficient to provide data confidence at the .05 level.
One hundred percent of the physician respondents made charitable contributions in 1985 and they gave an average of 2.5% of their annual income. They made an average of 15.7 gifts to charity in 1985, for a mean total of $2,691. The study shows that physicians are heavily solicited and that they respond to many charities. As income levels and total contributions to charity increased, physicians have a tendency to increase the number, rather than the size, of their individual gifts. The research concludes that the philanthropic interests of physicians extend to many areas and that doctors are far more charitable than is generally recognized. A closer targeting of the physician donor market, however, will be required to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of those nonprofit agencies seeking to establish or maintain a base of their support. Because doctors are already so heavily solicited, recommendations were made that development professionals and volunteers consider the personal and professional characteristics of physicians when identifying them as donor prospects rather than targeting doctors for gifts solely on the basis of their occupation. Physicians respond to charitable solicitations when they have personal interests in the cause and when they have been solicited by someone they know well.
This research was undertaken in partial fulfillment of the requirements leading to the degree of Master of Public Administration at the University of San Francisco. The findings are extracted from the master's thesis entitled "A Study of the lnfuence of Income, Worksetting and Medical Specialty on the Charitable Behavior of San Francisco Bay Area Physicians." The author wishes to acknowledge the valuable comments of Paul Harder, Barbara Marion, CFRE and Michael O'Neill, Ph.D. in support of the original manuscript for this work and the editorial assistance of Kathy Witty for the current document.
Bubnic A.M. (1988). The charitable behavior of San Francisco Bay area physicians. Working paper (University of San Francisco. Institute for Nonprofit Organization Management); no. 5. San Francisco, CA: Institute for Nonprofit Organization Management, College of Professional Studies, University of San Francisco.