Americans Give More Money to Philanthropy, Survey Finds

By Jonathan Weisman — October 24, 1990 3 min read

Washington--Americans gave a good deal more of their money and time to philanthropic causes in 1989 than they did in 1987, with average contributions to education jumping 17 percent, according to a new study 0 released here last week.

The study, conducted by the Gallup Organization for the group Independent Sector, could herald “a renaissance of philanthropy,” said Brian O’Connell, president of Independent Sector. The philanthropic group, the largest such coalition in the nation, represents 750 foundations, companies, and nonprofit organizations.

More than 2,700 individuals were interviewed between March and May for the study, which compares philanthopic activity in 1989 with 1987, when the last survey was conducted.

The survey showed “dramatic, wonderfully gratifying increases in giving and volunteering,” Mr. O’Connell said.

He predicted that as members of the baby-boom generation age, “gloriously new thrusts” in giving should keep the trends spiraling upward.

Domestic Concerns

Education benefited from a refocusing of national attention onto domestic concerns, according to Virgina A. Hodgkinson, the vice president of Independent Sector who heads its research programs.

Gifts to international charities fell precipitously, from $281 per giving household to $202, a drop of 38 percent when adjusted for inflation. Much of that money shifted to such domestic needs as education, she said.

“There’s now a very large concern for domestic problems,” she noted. “These are the issues focused on by the media and other groups.”

Giving last year totaled $96.4 billion, with average contributions increasing to $734 from $562, the survey found.

The size of gifts to education grew slightly more slowly than the average national rate of 20 percent, adjusted for inflation. Average contributions to education, at $291, exceeded all other charitable gifts, except those to reli gious organizations.

Youth groups and youth-development organizations received 65 percent larger gifts in 1989, when they received $129 per household, than they did in 1987, when they got $88.
More than 75 percent of American households are contributing to causes, the survey said, up from 71.1 percent. About 19 percent of the households surveyed said they con tributed to education, up from 15.1 percent in the last survey.

Volunteerism nationwide shot up 23 percent, the study said. About 80 million adults, or 45 percent of the population, volunteered in 1987. Two years later, 98.4 million, or 54 percent, volunteered.

Of those surveyed, 16.3 percent said they spent time volunteering to education-related programs and in stitutions.

The survey did not break down ed ucation support into philanthropic contributions to the higher-education and precollegiate sectors.

Traditionally, the majority of sup port has gone to postsecondary ac tivities, but in the corporate sector, according to a study released in August by the Council for Aid to Education, primary and secondary education has made significant strides in increasing its share. Precollegiate programs received 10.5 percent of corporate educational support in 1989, compared with 6 percent in 1987, it found.

‘Downright Stingy’

Independent Sector officials did not match their enthusiasm for the contributions of the baby-boomers with an appreciation for those from the wealthy.

“In comparision to the proportion of giving by the lower-income fam ilies with little disposable income,” Mr. O’Connell said, “most wealthy Americans have to be characterized as downright stingy.”

Contributing households with in comes less than $10,000 gave 5.5 percent of their income to charity. Those with incomes between $75,000 and $100,000 contributed 3.2 percent, and those earning at least $100,000 gave 2.9 percent.

A version of this article appeared in the October 24, 1990 edition of Education Week as Americans Give More Money to Philanthropy, Survey Finds