Americans giving less, and to fewer groups

PJ staff report

Americans, while still willing to give time and money to charity in the face of the troubled economy, are likely to give less and to fewer organizations, a new poll says.

And while a significant minority is willing to be actively involved in their communities and social causes, many more believe any involvement should not be obligatory, says The Harris Poll of 2,620 adults surveyed nationally online between Sept. 14 and 20 by Harris Interactive.

Thirty-one percent of those surveyed are giving smaller amounts, the same percentage that said they were giving less the last time the questions was asked, in January 2009, while 19 percent are giving to fewer organizations, down from 24 percent in 2009.

Twelve percent are not making any donations, up from 6 percent in 2009, while 11 percent are volunteering more, up from 9 percent in 2009

Forty-eight percent of those surveyed are willing to make a small contribution of either time or money to show their support for organizations or causes, compared to 49 percent in 2007.

Yet only 9 percent are willing to get “extremely involved” with causes they believe in, and only 24 percent are willing to “give generously” to those causes, while 13 percent do not volunteer either their time or money.

Twenty-four percent of adults believe people have a personal responsibility to make the world a better place by being actively involved in various issue, down from 31 percent in 2007.

Twenty-one percent believe people should generally take part in activities such as voluntary service, donating to charities or getting involved in community activities because it is the right thing to do.

Forty-six percent believe people can get involved in different causes but should not necessarily feel obligated to do so, up from 40 percent three years ago.

Fifty-three percent of U.S. adults say a company’s reputation for being socially responsible affects their decisions about what to buy at least sometimes, while 23 percent say it affects their decision-making on purchases once in a while, and 17 percent say it has no effect at all.

Twenty-one percent of those surveyed say they personally care most about and donate their time or money to charities that focus on youth and families, compared to 14 percent who favor charities that focus on medical research and 10 percent who favor those that focus on education.

Nineteen percent believe education should be a priority for charities to focus their resources on, while 18 percent favored youth and families, and 12 percent favored medical research.

Thirty-nine percent of those surveyed say they have taken action as a result of following a cause online.

Among them, 54 percent have talked to a friend or family member after reading something on the social networking site of a nonprofit or charitable organization, while 33 percent have contacted an elected representative, 31 percent have made a financial contribution to a cause the organization supports, and 23 percent have attended an event the organization sponsored.

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