January 24, 2023

Americans Are Losing Their Generosity

Has Washington’s out-of-control spending negatively impacted Americans’ donation habits?

A recently released Gallup poll finds that the vast majority of Americans fear 2023 will be a difficult economic year for their bottom lines. Nearly 80% of adults believe it’s going to be tough to make ends meet as they continue to struggle under 40-year-high inflation and the looming prospect of recession after nearly three years of Washington’s budget-busting spending sprees.

Like Washington’s longtime spending problem, a trend that appears to show no sign of ending anytime soon is the decline of philanthropy.

The number of American households donating to charity has declined from 66% in 2000 down to 50% in 2018. Making matters worse, a recent report from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP) observed a “collapse” in the number of one-time donors. Some 7% fewer people gave less than $500, and 17% fewer gave less than $100 annually. That drop occurred in just one year. While the dollar amount might appear rather insignificant, it isn’t — people who give small amounts account for 98% of all donors.

Furthermore, while the downward pressure on the economy certainly has had a negative impact on the number of Americans giving, as noted above, this decrease in giving is not a new trend.

As our nation has become culturally more irreligious, that has had a direct impact on America’s famed generous spirit. In 2004, 46% of American households gave money to churches or other religious organizations. As of 2018, that percentage has dropped to just 29% of households.

Younger Americans in general are less inclined toward philanthropic endeavors. While they may loudly express their opinions and virtue signal on social media their support for various social justice and philanthropic causes, they are less motivated to actually put up their money or give of their time toward various charitable causes.

Meanwhile, the overall amount of charitable giving from a strictly monetary consideration has remained robust thanks primarily to the philanthropic investments of wealthy donors and big foundation organizations.

Sadly, an attitude of “leave it to the rich” seems to be growing in the minds of many. This kind of often unintentional inconsiderate or self-centered thinking ironically serves to rob individuals of a kind of joy and fulfillment that is only found in giving freely to others in need. It may also demonstrate generally an eroding of our nation’s cultural and social values, as fewer people appear to trust organizations or empathize with the needs these charitable causes seek to meet. In other words, it may indicate a growing cultural apathy that will have unfortunate consequences down the road.

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