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Older Americans More Generous, More Skeptical

(May 1, 2006) A new survey has found that older Americans are not only more likely to donate their time and money to charities, but also more likely to be skeptical that such organizations are honest and ethical.

More than 90 percent of Americans have contributed to a charity in the past year, according to the latest DonorPulse survey conducted by Harris Interactive. Three in four young Americans (ages 18-29) reported making a gift, while 95 percent of individuals age 50 or older said the same.

The trends hold true for volunteering. Seventy-two percent of respondents age 65 or older said they have volunteered in the past year, while 52 percent of those age 18 to 24 and 59 percent of those 25 to 29 reported contributions of time.

The overall trend for giving is quite strong. In the May 2005 DonorPulse survey, 80 percent of respondents reported making a gift to a charity in the past year. That figure remained the same in the October 2005 survey, but jumped to 92 percent in the most recent study.

Honesty, Accountability Concerns Remain

The bad news is that the public still has ethical concerns with the charitable sector, especially over its handling of contributions.

In the survey, 58 percent of Americans agreed with the statement that “most charitable organizations are honest and ethical in their use of donated funds,” while 27 percent disagreed and 15 percent “neither agreed nor disagreed.”

A sharp discrepancy in responses based on age also was apparent with this issue. A third of respondents age 50 or older disagreed with the above statement, compared with 16 percent of individuals age 18 to 24.

Another question asked, “In general, do you think the nonprofit sector in America is on the right track or has pretty seriously gotten off in the wrong direction.” The question is quite vague, but only 30 percent said the sector was on the right track. Thirty-percent said it was on the wrong track, and 38 percent were not sure.

About the Survey

The survey was conducted by telephone in the U.S., April 7-10, 2006, among a nationwide cross section of 1,008 adults. The survey has a 95 percent certainty with a statistical precision of plus or minus three percentage points.

Harris Interactive is a world-wide market research and consulting firm based in Rochester, N.Y.

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