Awareness of Giving Tuesday Remains Low, but 4 in 10 Americans are Likely to Donate in Celebration

NEW YORK, N.Y. – The season of giving is upon us! From bell-ringing to food donating to volunteering, Americans are getting in the generous spirit. In 2012, New York City’s 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation started Giving Tuesday to create a global day of giving. The special day is an annual event that takes place on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (November 29th this year). While awareness of the day remains low with 75% of Americans unaware of the day, this is down from 87% who had never heard of Giving Tuesday in 2015.

Millennials are more likely than those ages 55 and older to have heard of Giving Tuesday (30% vs. 20% 55-64 & 18% 65+). However, looking at the 25% of adults who have heard of the holiday, just 4% have ever participated – 1 in 10 each say they still don’t know what it is (10%) and they’ve never participated (10%). While 87% say they don’t need a holiday to tell them when to give, after being familiarized with the holiday, over three quarters (78%) of Americans say this day represents what the holiday season should be about.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,049 U.S. adults surveyed online between November 18 and 22, 2016.

Past, present, and future giving

About 4 in 10 Americans (39%) say they’re likely to donate – either in the form of time, money, or resources – to a charitable organization in celebration of Giving Tuesday. This is particularly true for Millennials compared to those ages 55 or older (47% vs. 29% 55-64, 26% 65+), and for women compared to men (43% vs. 34%).

Among those who are likely to donate, over half (52%) plan to donate to a charity supporting human service, while nearly 3 in 10 each plan to give to youth/family (28%) and animal causes (28%). Around 2 in 10 plan to give to religious organizations (19%), education causes (18%), or human rights charities (18%).

Beyond Giving Tuesday, a majority of Americans (57%) say the amount of their charitable donations have remained the same in 2016 as they did last year and just 19% say their donations have increased. Looking ahead to 2017, 65% plan to donate the same amount as they have this year. Just 22% plan to increase their donations.

Attitudes toward giving

A plurality of Americans see charitable giving in general as an option, not a responsibility. Over 4 in 10 (46%) believe that people can get involved with different issues and causes if they want to, but that no one should be obligated to do so. This is down slightly from 50% of adults who felt the same way in 2015. However, over 2 in 10 adults each say people have a personal responsibility to make the world a better place by being involved (22%) and that people generally should take part in such things because it is the right thing to do (22%). Those with children in the household are more likely than those without to feel people have a personal responsibility to make the world a better place (26% vs. 20%).

Prioritizing charitable causes

There are no shortage of causes that charities can focus their resources on. Americans feel charities should focus their resources on human service (24%, including blood banks, food banks, and homeless shelters), healthcare (9%), and education (8%). Seven percent say charities should focus on human rights, environmental, youth/families, and medical research.

However, Americans prioritize their personal giving slightly different. When asking Americans which charities they personally care most about and personally donate to, human service again rises to the top (20%), but is followed by animals (12%) and religious organizations (11%). Rounding out the top five causes Americans care about personally are youth/families (8%) and education (7%).

Corporate giving

Over 7 in 10 Americans (72%) agree that a company’s reputation for social responsibility has at least some effect on them when deciding what to buy and who to do business with. However, there are some clear differences in the types of causes that adults feel are more appropriate for individuals to donate to compared to businesses. About 7 in 10 adults each feel companies should lead the way in donating to global health (77%), healthcare (76%), medical research (76%), environmental (72%), and disaster relief (68%) causes. However, individuals are the more appropriate donors for causes serving religious organizations (84%), animals (75%), youth/families (63%), human service (57%), and arts and culture (56%).




This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between November 18 and 22, 2016 among 2,049 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, The Harris Poll 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 Poll 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 our 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 The Harris Poll.

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The Harris Poll® #65, November 23, 2016

By Allyssa Birth, Senior Research Analyst, The Harris Poll