Giving Rates Were Up But Volunteering Declined Last Year, Gallup Poll Says
Eighty-one percent of Americans say they donated money to charity in 2021, up from 73 percent a year earlier, according to a new Gallup poll.
However, the share of Americans who say they volunteered declined from 58 percent to 56 percent. The rate of volunteering has steadily declined since 2013, when it peaked at 65 percent.
The results were drawn from telephone interviews conducted December 1-16 with a random sample of 811 adults. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
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Eighty-one percent of Americans say they donated money to charity in 2021, up from 73 percent a year earlier, according to a new Gallup poll. The share of people who gave money in 2021 rose across all income groups.
However, the share of Americans who say they volunteered declined from 58 percent to 56 percent. The rate of volunteering has steadily declined since 2013, when it peaked at 65 percent. Most of the decline in volunteerism occurred among people in households with incomes of $100,000 or more, while volunteerism held roughly steady at households with incomes below that level.
The overall rate of giving and volunteerism remains below pre-pandemic levels, according to the poll.
The results were drawn from telephone interviews conducted December 1-16 with a random sample of 811 adults. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Other data sources show much lower rates of giving than the Gallup numbers. One recent study by Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy found that the giving rate has fallen from 66 percent of U.S. households in 2000 to 49.6 percent in 2018, the latest year with comprehensive figures.
Nathan Dietz, senior researcher at the University of Maryland’s Do Good Institute and an adviser on the methodology for the Lilly school’s annual “Giving USA” report, which has also tracked lower rates of giving than Gallup, said the disparity may be due to the fact that Lilly asks whether households gave more than $25, while the Gallup question specified no minimum.
Dietz also noted that a difference in response rates could be a reason for the disparity; if a response rate is low, it can skew results because “people who didn’t give might be less likely to respond to the survey at all, or less likely to answer that question, maybe because they were embarrassed to say that they aren’t charitable.” Additionally, Dietz said the wording of the Gallup question was broader, referring to giving to any charitable “cause,” while Lilly’s question referred to
Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said the results of the Gallup poll mirror what she’s seen at her organization, which relies heavily on volunteers; donor cash support remained strong while volunteerism declined. The nonprofit provides a wide array of services, including health care access, legal support, labor rights advocacy, and education services.
Salas said the pandemic was a driving force in the decline in volunteers. While health concerns held back some volunteers of all ages, young people were further discouraged by the fact that many of the available volunteer opportunities moved online, she said. Young people want to get involved in a hands-on way; Zoom calls aren’t a satisfying substitute for many of them, she said.
Salas said she expects volunteering to rebound strongly as soon as the threat of the pandemic subsides.
Salas went out of her way to praise the many volunteers, young and old, who showed up despite the threat to their health. The organization did everything it could in terms of providing personal protective equipment and other safety measures for the volunteers who continued to show up, Salas said. “I see an incredible level of courage and commitment from people,” she said.