You might think Peter Karoff has his work cut out for him. He teaches people how to give away their money. This year his group, the Philanthropic Initiative, or TPI, will help 60 clients give away about $55 million, reports CBS News Correspondent John Roberts.
"Much of the wealth is new in the sense that those who have it don't have a history within their family of enjoying, appreciating, dealing with, or struggling with the issue of wealth," says Karoff. "For most people, giving is not something connected with the head, it's connected with the heart."
"They haven't yet grappled with what this all means. That impacts the decision making around philanthropy. In some ways there's a lack of permission to give, an internal lack of permission, and no experience at how to go at it," Karoff continues.
So TPI offers one-on-one help or weekend seminars for would-be philanthropists. The first step seems pretty basic.
"We ask questions that begin with, what are your values? What are the things you are really passionate about? That turns out to be a really tough question for people to answer," says Karoff.
It wasn't tough for Swanee Hunt. She inherited a multi-million dollar fortune from her father, oil baron H.L. Hunt, and knew what she wanted to do with it.
"I'm really passionate about issues where people's lives are damaged long term," says Hunt.
Hunt's philanthropic work with issues like teen pregnancy fits well into her everyday life as head of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.
"Giving is about an attitude, a leaning forward, it's about finding a way to be connected to the world," Hunt explains.
What's her contribution to be connected? About $3 million a year.
"I think it's a matter of reaching down into your core and saying, how do I want to use this money," says Hunt.
Three-quarters of all the money given to charity last year came from individual donors.
Sociologist Paul Schervish of Boston College studies why people give.
"There is this sense of identity with another person that their fate is like my fate, their fate is tied to my fate. This is what motivates generosity," says Schervish.
And it's not just millionaires who are generous. About 70% of American households donate with an average yearly contribution of just over $1,000. And people who volunteer their time also tend to give more, and many of them are not wealthy.
"Those who are under $60,000 dollars in income give about 25 percent of all the charitable dollars, and that works out to abou$30 billion a year," says Schervish.
Part of that $30 billion comes from Elfrida Nowell. She works for a union and her husband does construction work. Their finances fluctuate, but their giving is constant.
"The need out there is greater than I can ever fulfill," says Nowell. "But I am happy to be just a little grain in the sand, I guess you could say."
On the surface, Elfrida Nowell and Swanee Hunt couldn't seem more different, but they are both 48, they are both mothers, and they both hope to pass on the gift of giving to their children.
"Philanthropy isn't about giving money. Philanthropy is about giving yourself," says Hunt.
Reported by John Roberts