Substantial Numbers Still Willing to Donate Time and Money

NEW YORK , N.Y. – November 4, 2010 – 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.

Contributing Time or Money to Organizations

  • 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.

Personal Responsibility

  • Many Americans are willing to make a small contribution of either time or money to show their support to organizations or causes (48%). This is unchanged from 2007 when 49% felt this way;
  • Only a third indicate that they are willing to get extremely involved (9%) or give generously (24%) to causes they believe in, while 13% say they don’t volunteer either their time or money;
  • 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.

Effect of Corporate Social Responsibility on Purchasing

Over half of U.S. adults (53%) say that a company’s reputation for being socially responsible at least sometimes affects their decisions about what to buy. Just under one in five (18%) feel strongly about this, with an additional 35% saying it sometimes affects their decision-making. Another quarter (23%) say a company’s reputation for social responsibility affects their purchase decision-making once in a while and 17% say it has no effect at all.

So What?

Given the current state of the economy, it is not altogether surprising that people are saying they are giving smaller charitable contributions or giving to fewer organizations. However, people are still acknowledging that even small contributions are important. And significant numbers say they are still willing to be extremely involved or give generously of their time and money. As the economy slowly improves, it will be interesting to see if these positive sentiments toward giving and personal responsibility and involvement translate into an improved picture for charities and other non-profits.

 

TABLE 1

ATTITUDES TOWARD PERSONAL INVOLVEMENT

As you may know, people’s attitudes differ very widely concerning how involved they want to be with community, civic, and social causes – including things like voluntary service, donating to charities, or getting involved in community activities. Which statement best describes your attitude about this subject?

Base: All adults

 

May 2007

Sept 2010

%

%

People have personal responsibility to make the world a better place by being actively involved with various issues and causes.

31

24

People generally should take part in such things because it is the right thing to do.

19

21

People can get involved with different issues and causes if they want to, but no one should feel obligated to do so.

40

46

A person’s main concern is to look out for his or her own interests, not to be involved with social causes.

1

3

Not sure

9

6

Note: Percentages may not add up to exactly 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 2

VOLUNTEERING TIME AND/OR MONEY

Which of these statements best describes your behavior in giving time and money to various organizations and causes?

Base: All adults

 

May 2007

Sept 2010

%

%

I am extremely involved in giving time and/or money to organizations and causes I believe in

8

9

I try to give generously of my time and/or money to organizations and causes I believe in

24

24

I make some kind of small contribution of time and/or money to organizations and causes I believe in, to show my support

49

48

For various reasons, I don’t volunteer any of my time or money

12

13

Not sure

8

6

Note: Percentages may not add up to exactly 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 3

BIGGEST PRIORITY FOR CHARITIES TO FOCUS RESOURCES

  Thinking about the state of the world today, which types of causes do you believe should be the

biggest priority for charities to focus their resources?

Base: All adults

 

Sept 2010

%

Education

19

Youth/families

18

Medical research

12

Human rights

9

Environmental

9

Disaster relief

7

Global health

6

Animals

3

Other

5

Not at all sure

12

Note: Percentages may not add up to exactly 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 4

CHARITIES CARED MOST ABOUT PERSONALLY

  And, which types of charities do you care most about personally, and/or donate your time and/or money

to the most?

Base: All adults

 

Sept 2010

%

Youth/families

21

Medical research

14

Education

10

Animals

8

Human rights

6

Environmental

6

Disaster relief

5

Global health

3

Other

15

Not at all sure

12

Note: Percentages may not add up to exactly 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 5

EFFECT OF CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY ON PURCHASE DECISIONS

How much effect would you say a company’s reputation for social responsibility has on your own

decisions about what to buy and who to do business with?

Base: All adults

 

May 2007

Sept 2010

%

%

It has a strong effect on my decisions

16

18

It sometimes affects my decisions

34

35

It affects my decisions once in a while

28

23

No effect at all

22

17

Not sure

 

7

Note: Percentages may not add up to exactly 100% due to rounding; indicates that this was not offered as a response choice in 2007

 

TABLE 6

CHANGE IN CHARITABLE BEHAVIORS

In which of the following ways, if any, have you changed your charitable behavior as a result

of the current state of the economy?

Base: All adults

 

Aug 2008

Jan 2009

Sept 2010

%

%

%

Give smaller amounts

28

31

31

Give to fewer organizations

25

24

19

Not made any donations

7

6

12

Volunteer more

11

9

11

Give to different types of organizations

7

5

6

Give larger amounts

7

5

4

Give to more organizations

6

4

4

Volunteer less

13

7

4

Not changed

42

45

36

Note: Multiple responses accepted. Percentages add up to more than 100%.

 

TABLE 7

ACTION TAKEN AS A RESULT OF NON-PROFIT SOCIAL MEDIA

Have you done any of the following as a result of something you read in a nonprofit or charitable organization’s blog, RSS feed, or on a social networking site (such as Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn, or a photo or video sharing site)?

Base: Adults who have taken action as a result of following a cause or charity online (39% of all adults)

 

Sept 2010

%

Talked to a friend or family member

54

Contacted an elected representative

33

Made financial contribution to the organization

31

Made financial contribution to a cause the organization supports

23

Attended an event sponsored by the organization

23

Volunteered for the organization

21

Contacted a media outlet to express opinion

13

Other

5

Note: Multiple responses accepted. Percentages add up to more than 100%.

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between September 14 to 20, 2010 among 2,620 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

J38847

Q805, 810, 815, 820, 825, 830, 835

The Harris Poll® #135, November 4, 2010

By David Krane, Vice President