What makes a philanthropist? The attributes are many, a new study shows.

Gordon Gund, whose investment firm has owned several sports teams, was blind by age 30. Now 78, Mr. Gund has spent the last four decades raising money for research to stop or reverse degenerative forms of blindness. And he finally seems to be close to fulfilling his dream.

Judy Jordan, 56, created a well-known California winemaker, J Vineyards & Winery. After selling it to a large wine producer a few years ago, she started a new winery, but this time, she is using the business to help the agricultural families that worked to make her successful.

Sapphira Goradia, 34, is the executive director and sole employee of her parents’ charitable entity, the Vijay and Marie Goradia Foundation. She is focused on making grants to educational and health organizations in India and determined to measure their impact.

The three are as different in interests as they are in age, but all are philanthropists. Which raises the question: Is there a way to gauge the choices, motivations and influences of a philanthropist?

The Philanthropy Workshop, an educational and networking organization, undertook a yearlong study to determine what a high-net-worth philanthropist looks like. Its report, to be released on Tuesday, is called “Going Beyond Giving: Perspectives on the Philanthropic Practices of High and Ultra-High Net Worth Donors.” The data the group collected is robust, but what it really revealed was how hard it is to put such a diverse group into easily understandable boxes ...

Larry Leibowitz, a former chief operating officer of NYSE Euronext, gives to animal welfare and women’s rights organizations, but his Wall Street background led him to ask how he could supply better information to other philanthropists.

“I figured if I could make that space an inch more efficient, I could make a difference,” Mr. Leibowitz said.

After working on the issue alone, he teamed up with Jeff Raikes, the former chief executive of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and backed Giving Compass, which aims to be a clearinghouse for information on various causes.

“A lot of this is, how do you fit your personal preferences to charity like the rest of your life?” he said. Philanthropy is “just a very murky area because it’s inefficient, there isn’t good information and people are embarrassed to ask questions.”

Philanthropists like to talk about the “impact” of their giving and how to measure it. But unless you’re delivering something quantifiable—like vaccines or bed nets—measuring impact can be difficult without the staff of a large foundation.

Read the full article about the "new philanthropist" by Paul Sullivan at the New York Times or download the PDF below.