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Proportion Who Gave To Charity Down Since 1989, Survey Finds

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A slightly smaller proportion of Americans contributed money or time to charities last year than in 1989, a new survey concludes, and while, on average, those who donated money gave less, those who volunteered gave more of their time.

Seventy-two percent of households contributed to charity last year, compared with 75 percent in 1989, according to the report, a biennial survey commissioned by Independent Sector, a coalition of 800 corporations, foundations, and voluntary organizations that seeks to strengthen the nonprofit sector. The average contribution to charity from American households dropped to $899, down from $978 in 1989.

The survey also found that the percentage of Americans who volunteered declined somewhat, from 54 percent three years ago to 51 percent last year.

But the survey, conducted by the Gallup Organization, also noted that those who did volunteer contributed more time, increasing from an average of four hours a week in 1989 to 4.2 hours a week last year. And the most generous contributors--those who donated at least 5 percent of their income or volunteered more than five hours a week--remained steady in their giving.

"We were pleased to learn that the generous core of givers and volunteers continued to do so and remained rather stable,'' said John Thomas, a spokesman for Independent Sector. "The generous core has at least held the line, but the downturn in the economy caused some [others] to give quite a bit less and volunteer a bit less.''

The only age group showing an increase in the percentage of contributors was 18- to 24-year-olds--a finding Mr. Thomas said was "mildly surprising'' and an optimistic sign for future giving trends.

The survey also found that those people who identify themselves as religious and who attend religious services regularly, and people with experience in giving and volunteering in their youth are the most generous givers.

The findings are based on a survey of 2,671 Americans age 18 or older conducted between April and May of this year.

Copies of the 1992 edition of "Giving and Volunteering in the United States'' are available for $30 each from Independent Sector, 1828 L St., N.W., Washington D.C. 20036; telephone (202) 233-8100.--M.S.

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