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Americans prefer to give money than volunteer time: Survey
30 March 2006

Minneapolis, USA: When it comes to supporting a charitable cause, American adults are more inclined to reach for their wallets than to roll up their sleeves, according to national survey by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. This represents a reversal from a year earlier when a plurality of Americans said they found it easier to give their time than their money to charitable causes.

Half of all American adults (50 percent) said they found it easier to give their money than their time to a charitable cause, a jump of 13 percentage points from a year earlier. Conversely, about one in three Americans (32 percent) reported they believed it easier to volunteer their time, a decrease of 10 percentage points from the year before. Fourteen percent of respondents said they thought both forms of giving were equally easy.

Despite this attitude reversal on committing time to charitable causes, 57 percent of Americans still reported they volunteered in an activity sponsored by a third party, while 43 percent had not volunteered in a structured activity.

“While there are many possible reasons for the attitude reversal on volunteerism, 2005 was clearly a year when natural disasters in far away places made giving money the preferred method of support,” said Brad Hewitt, Thrivent Financial senior vice president of volunteer programs. “That said, it’s great to see that Americans continue to volunteer at the same rate as last year.”

The survey results showed both age and geography influence people’s attitudes about giving and serving. Young adults, age 18 to 24, were most likely to say it is easier to give one’s time than one’s money (49 percent) to a charitable cause, while pre-retirees (age 55 to 64) were most likely to say giving one’s money was easier (56 percent). Similarly, while 64 percent of those living in the Northeast favored giving one’s money, just 39 percent of Westerners agreed. Conversely, 40 percent of Westerners said they thought supporting a charitable cause through volunteering was easiest, while 22 percent of those living in the Northeast agreed.

The year ahead for volunteering

Nearly seven in 10 (68 percent) of Americans who volunteered in 2005 reported that they planned to spend the same number of hours volunteering in 2006 as they did in 2005, according to the survey. Twenty-two percent reported they intended to spend more hours, and nine percent said they anticipated volunteering fewer hours this year. Those most likely to say they planned to volunteer more hours included pre-retirees (30 percent), those having household incomes of less than $25,000 (25 percent), those living in the West (28 percent), and those not employed (33 percent).

As a membership organization, Thrivent Financial creates, manages and funds outreach programmes that support congregations, schools, nonprofits and individuals in need. The organization’s members annually participate in thousands of community service activities through the organization’s 1,364 chapters (local volunteer groups).

Telephone interviews were conducted for Thrivent Financial by Synovate TeleNation Research, between 2-4 December 2005, among a nationwide sample of 1,000 U.S. adults aged 18 and older.