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Who Gives In the US?

18 April 2005 at 1:04 pm
Staff Reporter
Almost all Americans donate to charity, but those on lower incomes are more generous with their donations than the wealthy a new study says.

Staff Reporter | 18 April 2005 at 1:04 pm


Who Gives In the US?
18 April 2005 at 1:04 pm

Almost all Americans donate to charity, but those on lower incomes are more generous with their donations than the wealthy a new study says.

Americans continue overwhelmingly to donate to a variety of charitable causes, with more than 90 percent giving from at least $100 to more than $10,000 per year.

But the survey says perhaps surprisingly, lower-income Americans are among the nation’s most generous givers, based on percentage of income.

These are among the key findings of the inaugural Freelanthropy Charitable Giving Index, a new comprehensive survey of how much Americans give and the types of Not for profit organisations to which they give.

The baseline survey, conducted in mid-January by market research firm Synovate of Chicago, asked a cross-section of 1,000 Americans to provide information on their giving behaviour.

Initiated by Freelanthropy, Inc. (, a new online service dedicated to assisting organisations with innovative branding, communications and fundraising capabilities, the Freelanthropy Index will track donation patterns by Americans on a quarterly basis.

When measured by the amount donated, the survey found overall that the largest percentage of Americans—42 percent—gave between $100 and $1,000 within the last 12 months.
The next largest group, 24 percent, donating less than $100, while 18.5 percent donated between $1,000 and $5,000.

A much more modest number, just 4.4 percent, donated between $5,000 and $10,000 while a scant 1.1 percent gave more than $10,000.

Revealing a generosity of spirit by percentage of income, those individuals earning less than $25,000 per year proved to be the biggest givers; fully 40 percent donated between $100 and $1,000 last year.

Counterbalancing that generosity, however, this income segment also provided the largest number who gave less than $100, 32 percent.

Also measured by income, statistics reveal that 44 percent of those with incomes above $75,000 gave $100 to $1,000. Twenty-six percent of Americans earning the same amount gave between $1,000 and $5,000, while less than 9 percent of that group donated between $5,000 and $10,000. Just 3 percent of this bracket gave above $10,000, the only income group to donate at this level.

Measuring past versus present giving trends, the Freelanthropy Index also showed that those earning $50,000 to $75,000 were somewhat likely to give less (15 percent), while nearly 24 percent of those making less than $25,000 gave more during the past 12 months.

The study further revealed that age consistently shows up as an important factor in giving.

The larger sums of $1,000 to $5,000 come primarily from the 45 to 54 age group (25 percent); the smallest group donating at this level is comprised of those aged 18 to 24, at 1.3 percent.

Other noteworthy differences include the $100 to $1,000 level, dominated by those 55 to 64 (49 percent). Again, those 18 to 24 had the smallest representation at this level, at just 31 percent.

At the lowest level of giving, the 18 to 24 demographic comprised almost 53 percent of those who gave less than $100, while the 55 to 64 age group numbered 18 percent.

Measuring current trends in giving by age, the Freelanthropy study also shows that 25 percent of the 18 to 24 year-olds are contributing more now than in the past—the largest group to do so—while those over 65 are now the least likely to be giving more (14 percent). Among those now giving less, the 35 to 45 age group dominates at 15 percent, while, notably, those over age 65 are the least likely to be cutting back on giving, with just 6.6 percent indicating a planned decrease.

On the receiving end, the survey says organisations clearly have a receptive audience with some specific groups—and not with others. Young people vote with their (often limited) dollars for funding health and human services (42.5 percent), the largest group in that category and the most popular cause by far among those 18-24. The group most likely to include new parents—those 25-34—ranked education first (nearly 27 percent), while those over 65 favour charities that support religious organisations by a wide margin (39 percent).

Indeed, Americans 45 and above ranked the support of religious organisations first, while people in the younger age brackets ranked them last.

If you would like a full statistical breakdown of the survey results, send us an email with the words Who Gives in the US in the subject line to

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