Study finds only half of American households are donating to charity

Haleluya Hadero Ap Business Writer
Friday, July 30, 2021

For the first time in nearly two decades, only half of U.S. households donated to a charity, according to a study released Tuesday. The findings confirm a trend worrying experts: Donations to charitable causes are reaching record highs, but the giving is done by a smaller and smaller slice of the population.

The study, published every other year by Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, comes from a survey that has been tracking the giving patterns of more than 9,000 households since 2000, when 66% of U.S. households donated to a charitable organization. That number dropped to 49.6% in 2018, the latest year with comprehensive figures from those households.

Experts say many factors are contributing to the decline. The percentage of Americans who give to religious causes has decreased in tandem with attendance at worship services as the number of Americans not affiliated with any religion grows. Separately, the share of Americans who give to secular causes began to drop following the economic turbulence of the Great Recession, but it hasn’t bounced back. It reached a new low — 42% — in 2018, the study said.

Una Osili, the associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly School, suggests this is, in part, because the Great Recession made it difficult for some younger Americans to establish a habit of giving. The study found only about a third of households headed by someone under the age of 40 gave to charity in 2018, a trend Osili believes will be a challenge for charities.

“What are the factors that will bring them into giving? Especially if they are not attending services, and not participating in networks that will lead to giving,” she said.

The nationally representative study from the university does have its limitations. It measures giving to charitable organizations, but doesn’t analyze donations made through informal crowdfunding campaigns, which tends to draw younger audiences. It does, however, measure contributions of goods and services.

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