A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Most Americans practice volunteerism,
as well as charitable giving, poll shows

By the Gallup Editors

To mark the solemn one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., this weekend the victims’ families have joined in asking Americans to honor their loved ones by engaging in deliberate acts of kindness.

“‘We are broken,’ said Matt Crebbin, the coordinator of the Newtown Interfaith Clergy Association. He encouraged people in Newtown and elsewhere to perform acts of kindness as a way to allow something positive to emerge from the tragedy.

Americans are well-suited for the task, as 65 percent say they volunteered their time to a religious organization or some other charity in the past year, and 83 percent say they donated money.

The percentages of U.S. adults who self-report volunteering time and money to charity have been high since Gallup first asked this in 2001. But the percentage of Americans who report volunteering is the highest to date, while donating money is on the low end of the range.

The latest results are based on Gallup’s Lifestyle poll, conducted Dec. 5-8.

The 83 percent of Americans who say they have donated money in the past year represents those who donated to a religious organization, to another charitable cause, or to both. More specifically, 55% of Americans say they donated money to a religious organization, 75 percent donated to another charitable cause, and 47% donated to both.

The percentage who have donated to a religious organization is the lowest Gallup has measured to date, with faith-based giving falling nine percentage points since 2005. Donations to other types of charities have been flat since 2005, suggesting the decline in religious donations may be due more to the weakening of Americans’ bonds with formal religious institutions rather than to the economy.

In terms of volunteering, 46 percent of Americans report having given their time to a religious organization and 49 percent to another type of charitable group. Sixty-five percent donated their time to at least one of these types, and 30 percent donated to both.

Many Americans will likely pause this weekend to think about and pray for the victims of Sandy Hook and their families. Others may be moved to do acts of kindness in honor of those who lost their lives. Gallup data reveal that the vast majority of Americans already practice kindness in the form of charitable giving and volunteering their time, both within and outside religious communities. Perhaps Americans will do more to seek out these opportunities this weekend in solidarity with the people of Newtown.

To read the full report, including methodology used, click here.


This story was written for Gallup.com, where it first appeared.

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