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Most Americans Practice Charitable Giving, Volunteerism

Most Americans Practice Charitable Giving, Volunteerism

Gallup Editors

PRINCETON, NJ -- To mark the solemn one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., the victims' families have joined in asking Americans to honor their loved ones on Dec. 14 by engaging in deliberate acts of kindness. Americans are well-suited for the task, as 65% say they volunteered their time to a religious organization or some other charity in the past year, and 83% say they donated money.

Summary of Americans' Charitable Activity, 2001-2013

The percentages of U.S. adults who self-report volunteering time and money to charity have been high since Gallup first asked this in 2001. But the percentage of Americans who report volunteering is the highest to date, while donating money is on the low end of the range.

"'We are broken,' said Matt Crebbin, the coordinator of the Newtown Interfaith Clergy Association. He encouraged people in Newtown and elsewhere to perform acts of kindness as a way to allow something positive to emerge from the tragedy."

The latest results are based on Gallup's Lifestyle poll, conducted Dec. 5-8.

The 83% of Americans who say they have donated money in the past year represents those who donated to a religious organization, to another charitable cause, or to both. More specifically, 55% of Americans say they donated money to a religious organization, 75% donated to another charitable cause, and 47% donated to both.

The percentage who have donated to a religious organization is the lowest Gallup has measured to date, with faith-based giving falling nine percentage points since 2005. Donations to other types of charities have been flat since 2005, suggesting the decline in religious donations may be due more to the weakening of Americans' bonds with formal religious institutions rather than to the economy.

Trend: Americans' Self-Reports of Charitable Giving

In terms of volunteering, 46% of Americans report having given their time to a religious organization and 49% to another type of charitable group. Sixty-five percent donated their time to at least one of these types, and 30% donated to both.

Trend: Americans' Self-Reports of Volunteering

Upper-Income and Religious Americans Report Highest Giving and Volunteering

Naturally there are significant differences in self-reported charitable giving by household income, with 95% of those in households earning $75,000 or more saying they gave money to a religious organization or other charity in the past 12 months. This drops to 86% among middle-income earners and 67% among those earning less than $30,000. Upper-income Americans are also more likely to say they volunteered.

Furthermore, Christians are more likely than those with no religious affiliation to report that they made donations and volunteered time, and Protestants are at least slightly more likely than Catholics to report higher rates of donating and volunteering. Similarly, those who attend church or another religious institution regularly are much more likely to say they have donated and volunteered in the past year. These differences are driven largely by religious respondents (weekly churchgoers, Christians, and Protestants, specifically), who are more likely to say they donated money or time to a religious organization in the past year. At the same time, religious Americans are just as likely as nonreligious Americans to report nonreligious giving and volunteering. (See table on page 2 for detailed results by demographic and religious group.)

There is no difference in self-reported involvement with charitable activity or donations by gender. The only significant differences by age are the lower rate of donating money among young adults, and slightly lower rate of volunteerism among seniors.

Americans' Self-Reports of Donating Money to Charity, Volunteering in Past 12 Months, December 2013

Bottom Line

Many Americans will likely pause this weekend to think about and pray for the victims of Sandy Hook and their families. Others may be moved to do acts of kindness in honor of those who lost their lives. Gallup data reveal that the vast majority of Americans already practice kindness in the form of charitable giving and volunteering their time, both within and outside religious communities. Perhaps Americans will do more to seek out these opportunities this weekend in solidarity with the people of Newtown.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 5-8, 2013, with a random sample of 1,031 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline and cell telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

Americans' Self-Reports of Donating Money to Charity, Volunteering in Past 12 Months, December 2013

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