Originally Posted by heavyd
I know people who have family foundations who just allocated a percentage of the interest to charity.
Just to clarify that, private foundations have to give 5% of assets
(not income) annually to charity. In practice, this means that without subsequent gifts, most foundations will erode in purchasing power after inflation and even a few bits of bad luck take their bite.
Practice on annual giving varies by region, religious background, and class-- not always as you'd expect. In our own family, we put our daughter on a $1/week allowance (now $5/month) with the proviso that 25% goes to charity. Around November, we start talking seriously about where her $13 will go for Christmas. She also sees us plan gifts of various sorts, although we don't discuss amounts with her.
On a different scale, and in a different time (pre-income-tax), when my grandfather came into his patrimony he was simultaneously presented with the wish of his father that 10% of its income go to charitable good works. That's a hard nut to crack for anyone working their way out of college loans, but I've actually met some who've done it, even while living close to poverty. Those givers tend to have close ties to a church, however.
I've never heard of a private club asking about this, and I can imagine that they have at least one of several agendas:
Do you give at all? (Some are perfectly content to let others fund the gracious parts of their life.)
Where do you give? This says a lot about your passions and priorities. I suppose a gimlet-eyed admissions committee might want to know if you were an Amnesty International do-gooder or a Lyric Opera social climber--to put the negative spin on both worthwhile gifts. In the very bad old days, it might have been a way of figuring out your religious/ethnic background if that weren't obvious from your last name or appearance.
In these more enlightened (!) times, there may be a positive interest in finding out whether your interests overlap with club members'. From what I've seen from working with non-profits there, Chicago has a real civic culture that encourages volunteering and board service among the business community.