Contributions Smaller and to Fewer Organizations, Poll Finds

Even though Americans indicate that, as a result of the current economy, they have changed their behavior toward donating their time or money, substantial numbers of Americans still indicate a willingness to make contributions, albeit smaller ones and to fewer organizations. Further, when it comes to personal involvement in their communities and social causes, a significant minority indicates that they are willing to be actively involved; many more feel that any involvement shouldn’t be obligatory.

Here are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,620 adults surveyed nationally online between September 14 and 20, 2010 by Harris Interactive.

  • As a result of the current economy, Americans say that they have changed their behavior toward charitable giving in a number of ways. Since January 2009 when this question was last asked, people say they are giving smaller amounts (31%, the same as in 2009) or are giving to fewer organizations (19%, down from 24% in 2009). Further, more people are not making any donations at all (12%, increased from 6% in 2009) and are volunteering more (11%, up from 9% in 2009);
  • The charities that U.S. adults care most about personally and donate their time or money to the most are charities that focus on youth and families (21%), medical research (14%), and education (10%). The same types of causes (though in a different order) – education (19%), youth/families (18%) and medical research (12%) – are also the causes that people believe should be a priority for charities to focus their resources;
  • Many people are using social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others to follow companies and nonprofit organizations. Among those who have taken action as a result of following a cause online (39%), over half (54%) say they have talked to a friend or a family member after reading something on a nonprofit or charitable organization’s social networking site, a third (33%) have contacted an elected representative, 31% have made a financial contribution to the organization, 23% have made a financial contribution to a cause the organization supports and 23% have attended an event sponsored by the organization;
  • A quarter of U.S. adults (24%) feel that people have a personal responsibility to make the world a better place by being actively involved various issues. This is a decline from 2007 when three in ten (31%) also felt this way. Another one in five (21%) feel that people should generally take part in things such as voluntary service, donating to charities or getting involved in community activities because it is the right thing to do;
  • Just under half (46%) feel that people can get involved in different causes but shouldn’t necessarily feel obligated to do so, which is up from the 40% who said this three years ago.