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Polling Institute Survey Tracks the Public’s Charitable Inclinations

Posted by Jo-Ann Johnston on Nov 26, 2018 10:01:41 AM
Jo-Ann Johnston

donation-3812345_960_720Americans have become accustomed to fundraising appeals from nonprofits and charities in November for #GivingTuesday and for the days following through the end of the calendar year.

For 2018, though, the Saint Leo University Polling Institute (@SaintLeoPolls) discovered some new wrinkles influencing the mindsets of likely donors this year. The institute has asked about charitable giving annually for several years.

The poll was conducted among 1,167 people both nationally, and through a separate sample, with nearly 700 people from throughout Florida during October. People were asked about individual household giving habits and concerns (corporations were not included) for 2018; most of the time, Florida responses mirrored the national mood. Natural disasters and to a lesser extent, important electoral contests were on people’s minds.  

In 2017, the polling institute started asking people where disaster-response appeals fit into their giving budgets. That year, there were wildfires in the West destroying communities, as well as hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, leaving wind damage and flooding in wide swaths in the United States and territories, not to mention international disasters.. In 2018, devastating fires raged again in the West and hurricanes Michael and Florence hit the East, among notable domestic events.

Consequently, in 2018, more than one-third of those polled nationally—35.2 percent strongly agreed or somewhat agreed that they want to direct more of their giving to victims of natural disasters. That is only slightly above the results from 2017, when 31.5 percent of respondents strongly agreed or somewhat agreed that disaster victims are a priority for them. While not a majority, the proportion of people reacting this way is noteworthy.

Dr. Nancy Wood, an associate professor of human services in Saint Leo University’s College of Education and Social Services, commented that “it would be expected that some individuals re-allocated donations to disaster relief” this year.  Donors might reasonably prioritize shelter and health care for disaster victims over causes they may support at other times that now seem less critical. Those categories might range from museums to arts or recreation. “Donors care about where their monies are being allocated and what the impact from the donation will be,” Wood said, noting that again this year, as in prior years, more than 80 percent of respondents reported that they research charities before donating.

Respondents were also asked how their overall giving for 2018 would likely compare to 2017, whether it would be more than last year, about the same, or less. The most common answer nationally was about the same, reflected in 44.2 percent of responses. Another 18.1 percent said they would be giving more than in 2017, and 12.9 percent said their giving levels would be down from 2017.

Because 2018 has featured such a lively midterm election, the polling institute asked respondents if their political parties or favored candidates were getting household dollars that might otherwise have gone to different causes. Specifically, the institute asked people to register their level of agreement or disagreement with this statement: “I have reduced my usual charitable giving in 2018 due to increasing my giving to political candidates in this year’s mid-term election.”

Nationally, a combined 22.5 percent registered some level of agreement; 10.1 percent strongly agreed and 12.4 percent somewhat agreed. Another 17.5 percent disagreed somewhat. More than half, 54.2 percent strongly disagreed, though. Florida’s answers practically matched. So, about one in five people felt compelled to allocate some of their giving to politics, but half of those polled said they were not placing political preferences over kinds of donations.

For the full results, see http://polls.saintleo.edu.

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