Transfer of Wealth in Wisconsin

In 1991 Boston College released the landmark study Millionaires and the Millennium, which created a stir within the philanthropic community. Its low estimate of inter-generational wealth transfer was $41 trillion over the next 50 years. In 2005 DFW in concert with the Community Foundation of Nebraska, who has developed the methodology to ascertain the transfer of wealth by county embarked on a statewide research of wealth potential in Wisconsin. This research will be used to promote philanthropy, build endowments and expand civic engagement in Wisconsin. Wisconsin stands on the cusp of a substantial wealth transfer.  Those are the findings of the recently released study, Wealth in Wisconsin.

The study finds its roots in a 1999 Boston College study called Millionaires and the Millennium. The landmark research evaluated the forthcoming transfer of wealth among generations. The findings rocked the philanthropic community. The study projected that $41 trillion would change hands among generations in the 55 year period from 1998-2052. (This was the study’s conservative estimate, based on 2% real maximum growth. The study’s moderate estimate put the wealth transfer at $76 trillion, while the high-end estimate was $136
trillion—with 3% and 4% growth respectively).

Transfer of Wealth in Wisconsin: From 2000 to 2050

Projections Stand

Despite economic downturns that followed the burst of the dot-com bubble and the September 11th terrorist attacks, Boston College researchers John J. Havens and Paul G. Schervish have continued to stand by their projections.

Nebraska Leads the Way

The potential for a new “golden age of philanthropy” prompted the Nebraska Community Foundation/Center for Rural Entrepreneurship to develop a methodology and project Nebraska’s wealth transfer on a county-by-county basis. The state’s projections have now helped catalyze county-by-county economic development, leadership and community improvement efforts. Valley County, in particular, has seen a marked improvement in its preparedness for the future. Residents there have focused on capturing a portion of the transfer of wealth for charitable purposes and are now looking to recruit ex-patriot wealth—from those who grew up in Valley County but now live elsewhere. Other states would soon follow Nebraska’s lead. Wisconsin is among them.

Wealth in Wisconsin

Impressed by the work in Nebraska and spurred by the sale of a family-owned Fortune 500 paper company to an international company, the Community Foundation of South Wood County (now Incourage Community Foundation) was the first in Wisconsin to conduct wealth transfer research as the first part of a large-scale economic development and stabilization initiative to prevent wealth from leaving the area. The Wisconsin Community Foundations Division of Wisconsin Philanthropy Network announced plans to conduct statewide research on the wealth transfer. In December 2005, the Nebraska Community Foundation/Center for Rural Entrepreneurship completed a wealth analysis report.

Wisconsin's Certified Community Foundations publicly released the final Wealth in Wisconsin findings on September 6, 2006 and began educational efforts to discuss retaining a portion of the wealth transfer for charitable purposes. The goal: Use the transfer of wealth as a springboard to improve our communities and our state. The study provides a message of hope for communities hit hard by economic shifts, brain drain/brain gain and changing demographics. It demonstrates Wisconsin residents have the potential to invest in the future of the state and its communities.


The Center for Rural Entrepreneurship completed the 2005 Wealth Analysis for Wisconsin Study Wealth in Wisconsin Complete Report

Wealth in Wisconsin Executive Summary

Frequently Asked Questions

Let's Talk about It!

Conversation Starting Tips

Transfer of Wealth in Rural America, 2012

In the book, Transfer of Wealth in Rural America, Don Macke, Deborah Markley and Ahmet Binerer share the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship’s new transfer of wealth scenarios for the U.S. – a remarkable $15.4 trillion could be passed from one generation to the next over the next 20 years. What might this mean for communities and foundations, particularly in rural America?

This toolkit was created to help foundation leaders present the transfer of wealth opportunity to board and community leaders and to begin the tough but important conversations about capturing and investing wealth for the future. The timing of wealth transfer and constrained public sector resources mean we need to begin these conversations…today!

Included in this toolkit: electronic copy of the Center’s book, Transfer of Wealth in Rural America; Discussion Guide offering suggestions for use with foundation board members, staff and other community leaders; customizable PowerPoint presentation with detailed script.

Click here to download the toolkit

News Coverage

Study: Charities can benefit from wealth transfer of wealth
The Business Journal of Milwaukee, 9/06/0