Americans in the highest income groups often share their largess by sponsoring lavish fundraisers, participating in charity events or making endowments to universities. Yet charitable giving remains an equal opportunity activity. Those with the least on their plates actually give the most away.
It's true that the wealthier the individual, the greater the amount they are likely to donate to charity. On average, people whose household income is $100,000 or more donate about $4,000 a year to philanthropic causes, compared with about $600 per household for those earning less than $25,000; the national average is $1,600. Arguably, lower-income earners are the more altruistic group, as they tend to give away a greater share of their income. People earning less than $25,000 contribute an average of 4.2 percent of their household income to charitable groups, while those making $100,000 or more shell out an average of 2.7 percent of earnings. This trend has been a consistent finding of Washington, D.C.-based Independent Sector, a nonprofit organization that has been tracking charitable giving since 1987.
Sept. 11 certainly was a case study in ubiquitous philanthropy. Two-thirds of all Americans dug deep into their pockets and gave money to help the victims of the tragedy, according a survey conducted by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. And the givers came from all income groups. Interest in volunteering also spiked after the attacks. An analysis of visitors to VolunteerMatch.com, an online volunteer service, found that the number of interested volunteers for all types of causes almost tripled in the weeks after the attacks. While some of the initial interest in volunteering may have waned, about a third (34 percent) of Americans have volunteered over the past year, according to a study conducted in August 2002 by the United Way of America.
Americans have always been generous givers. Despite less than ideal economic times, individuals gave $177 billion to charitable organizations in 2001. Less than 1 percent ($1.25 billion) of that was Sept. 11-related, according to Giving USA 2002, an annual report put out by the AAFRC Trust for Philanthropy, an Indianapolis-based foundation that supports philanthropic research and education. In the eight recession years since 1971, there were only slight declines in charitable giving, according to the report.
Regardless of income, age, education, race or ethnicity, most Americans give back to their communities. The Independent Sector reports that high rates of charitable giving and volunteerism have remained relatively steady over the past 15 years. Here's a look at the state of philanthropy in America today.
More Americans give to religious organizations than to any other cause, regardless of their household income.
PERCENT OF AMERICANS WHO HAVE GIVEN TO THE FOLLOWING TYPES OF CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS IN THE PAST YEAR, BY HOUSEHOLD INCOME:
|UNDER $45k||$45k-$75k||$75k-$100k||$100k-$250k||OVER $250k|
|Source: Simmons Market Research|
ALTRUISM AT WORK
Americans who volunteer also give more money to charity.
AVERAGE HOUSEHOLD CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS IN 2000, BY DEMOGRAPHIC:
|ALL CONTRIBUTING HOUSEHOLDS||ALL VOLUNTEERS|
|Less than high school||$784||$1148|
|High school grad||$1020||$1317|
|College grad or more||$2458||$2941|
|*Hispanic can be of any race.|
|Source: Independent Sector, â€œGiving and Volunteering, 2001â€?|
The percentage of Americans who give money increases with income, age and educational attainment.
|% OF AMERICANS WHO HAVE VOLUNTEERED IN THE PAST YEAR||% WHO HAVE GIVEN MONEY TO CHARITY IN THE PAST YEAR*|
|High school grad||21%||65%|
|Regularly attend religious services||39%||79%|
|Seldom/never attend religious services||29%||71%|
|*Does not include Sept. 11-related relief efforts.|
|Source: United Way of America, August 2002|
OLDER, WISER AND MORE GENEROUS
Americans ages 65 and older are more likely than other age groups to volunteer as a way to meet new people.
PERCENT OF AMERICANS WHO HAVE VOLUNTEERED IN THE PAST YEAR WHO SAY EACH OF THE FOLLOWING IS AN â€œIMPORTANTâ€? REASON THEY VOLUNTEER, BY AGE:
|I feel compassion toward people in need||96%||97%||96%||96%||98%|
|It's an important activity to people I respect||96%||97%||96%||96%||98%|
|Someone close to me is involved or benefits||68%||73%||75%||65%||59%|
|It's an opportunity to give back to the community||87%||92%||90%||92%||94%|
|Those who have more should help those with less||89%||88%||92%||90%||93%|
|To meet new people||69%||65%||59%||67%||77%|
|Source: Independent Sector, â€œGiving and Volunteering, 2001â€?|
TIME IS MONEY
The demographics of who gives time, money or both
While most Americans give to charity in one form or another, those who give only money differ in both demographics and attitude from those who give only their time. Individuals who give both, and those who give neither, also follow demographic patterns. A July 2002 survey of more than 6,000 adults, conducted by CauseWorks, the cause-related marketing arm of New York City-based public relations firm Porter Novelli, divides Americans into four segments.
ACTIVES: Givers of time and money
Americans who give time and money to at least one cause comprise the largest group (39 percent) of the U.S. population. They are more likely to be women than men (55 percent versus 45 percent), and they are the most educated of all four giving segments (40 percent have at least a bachelor's degree). Actives are also more likely to be a member of a racial or an ethnic minority group (30 percent are nonwhite).
SPONSORS: Givers of money
Those who donate only money represent a quarter of the total population. Half of them live in urban areas, and about a third have at least a college degree. Among all the segments, they are the most likely to be white and married, and a third of them have household incomes of $75,000 or more. Like Actives, they are most likely to donate their money to feeding the hungry, health research and helping the poor.
ADVOCATES: Givers of time
People who volunteer their time but do not give money to charity represent just 8 percent of the total population. These Americans are more likely to be women than men (57 percent versus 43 percent), and a quarter of them are single. Like Actives, this group is racially and ethnically diverse (30 percent are nonwhite), and they have the lowest household income of all segments (68 percent earn less than $50,000). Advocates are most likely to volunteer time for educational causes.
Those who donate neither time nor money represent about a quarter (28 percent) of the U.S. population. They, like Advocates, tend to have lower household incomes (66 percent earn less than $50,000) than members of the other segments, and 4 in 10 have a high school education or less. Americans in this group are the least likely to be married (27 percent are single) and the most likely to be living alone.