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Home > Research Articles > Faith fuels charity

The Philanthropy Journal

Saturday, July 13, 2002

Faith fuels charity Americans who give to religion are more generous than secular donors and volunteers, report says

Americans who contribute to religious congregations are more generous with their time and money than are those who don't support religion, a new report says.

Donors and volunteers contributing to religious causes give much more than do those supporting secular causes only, and they give as much or more to secular groups than do those giving only to secular groups, says the report by Independent Sector and the National Council of Churches.

Americans who donate money or time to religious groups are the "bedrock" of U.S. charity, donating seven dollars in eight of all contributions and nearly four times as much as those who give only to secular charities, says the report, Faith and Philanthropy: The Connection Between Charitable Behavior and Giving to Religion.

"The beliefs, values, attitudes and commitments of those who contribute to religion translate into high levels of generosity to other causes as well," it says.

Donors to religious congregations represent three in five U.S. households and support both their places of worship and secular causes, says the report.

Eighty-five percent of givers to religious congregations also support secular groups and provide three of every four contributed dollars they receive.

Overall, households giving to religion donate more than $2,100 a year on average to all causes, and are just as generous to other nonprofits as are secular givers, the report says.

Roughly one in ten households make no charitable contributions, one in 10 give to religious congregations only, three in 10 give only to secular charities, and five in 10 give to both.

Households that give both to religious congregations and to secular groups account for 81 percent of all donations.

Those households give $2,247 in total, on average, donating more to religion, $1,391, than do households that give only to religion, $1,154, and donating more to secular groups, $958, than do households giving only to secular groups, $623.

Religious activity also helps drive volunteerism, the report says.

Roughly one in 10 Americans volunteer for religious groups only, and another one in 10 volunteer both for religious and secular groups, accounting for three in 10 of all volunteer hours and splitting their time evenly between religious and secular volunteering.

More than half the population does not volunteer at all, while another one-fourth volunteers only for secular causes.

Fifty-four percent of people who regularly attend religious services volunteer, compared to 32 percent of those who don't attend, while people who attend frequently (29 percent of all people) account for nearly seven in 10 hours volunteers every month.

"In round numbers, one-third of the people give two-thirds of the time," the report says. "It is evident that faith has a remarkable impact on volunteering."

Volunteers for only religious congregations give 10.4 hours a month on average, compared to 14.1 hours for secular groups only, 16.4 hours for all volunteers at religious congregations, including those who also volunteer for secular groups -- and 23 hours by those who volunteer for both religious and secular groups.