Generosity A Hallmark

MUCH has been made of the alleged greed and materialism of the 1980s, but in terms of volunteering time and money to help others, generosity has been an American hallmark. During the last three decades, monetary donations have increased from $54 billion (constant 1990 dollars) in 1960 to $123 billion in 1990. Even in per capita terms, giving has increased nearly two-thirds. Although corporate and foundation grants often grab the media spotlight, nearly 90 percent of monetary donations take the form of individual gifts and bequests. In 1989 more than 40 percent of American adults claimed to have done unpaid work during the previous 12 months for charitable organizations or other groups that help people. Nearly three-quarters said they had, over the past few years, donated money to a charitable group on at least a semi-regular basis. Such figures are prone to exaggeration, but it is clear that Americans give a great deal. Many say they want to give more in the future. Two-thirds of Americans feel an obligation to give time or money to charity. In their own personal giving, Americans are most likely to donate money. But in an ideal situation, a majority would prefer to give of their own time. Charitable giving is greatest among those who attend religious services regularly. In part this is because religious groups are often centers for charitable activity. Seventy percent of those who attend religious services weekly or nearly weekly say they have volunteered their time, while 88 percent claimed to have made a monetary contribution to charity. The reported number of hours volunteered and the value of gifts as a percentage of household income among these regular attendees is about double the n ational average.

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