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Giving strong in U.S.

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Americans are generous with their time and money, and their contributions grow as their household income rises, although poorer households giving a bigger share of their income, new study says.

Giving and volunteering also are likely to be greater among adults who started volunteering as youngsters, and among individuals with ties to a formal religious organization, says the Giving & Volunteering in the United States 2001, a report published every two years by Independent Sector.

But the report also cites concerns that individual giving has begun to decline in the face of the sputtering U.S. economy.

“This study clearly shows that people who are worried about their personal financial condition give less than those who are not worried, so nonprofit organizations need to plan for a potential downtown in individual giving,” the report says.

“Nonprofits may need to increase their fundraising efforts, plan for the rise in costs of those increased efforts, and make contingency plans for the possibility of fewer resources.

The study also says it “demonstrates clearly the power of the ask: that people who are asked to give are strong givers. Nonprofits may need to ask new groups of people in new ways if they are to meet their fundraising targets.”

Nearly nine in 10 Americans contributed to religious groups and secular charities in 2000, with the average housing giving just over $1,600, says the report, based on a survey taken before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

One in three households gives more than $1,000, and nearly seven in 10 give to religious groups.

Forty-four of every 100 Americans, or nearly 84 million individuals, work as volunteers, giving roughly 15.5 billion hours – or the equivalent of more than 9 million full-time workers valued at $239 million.

Religious groups get the most volunteers, which work an average of 16 hours a month, and account for roughly one in four of all volunteer hours.

Secular charities that benefit the most from volunteers are in the fields of health, education, human services and youth development.

Environmental groups, among the least likely to get volunteers, are among the top in the monthly commitment their volunteers make – about 26 hours, roughly what volunteers contribute to youth-development groups.

Among households that gave to charity, more than six in 10 were asked to contribute, while among households that did not give, only one in four was asked to contribute.

Households that gave when asked contributed an average of nearly $2,000 a year, compared to $1,000 from households that gave without being asked.

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