As Giving Season Begins, New Classy Study Finds Only 10 Percent of Americans Plan to Give Less to Charity This Year

Why do Americans give to nonprofits? Conversely, what turns them off to supporting a cause? To dive deeper into donor sentiment before year-end, Classy commissioned a nationwide survey to uncover these insights and more. Classy’s must-read report provides a pulse-check on donor behavior, straight from the donors themselves.

Classy's survey, which was fielded earlier this month after the 2018 midterm elections, reveals that nearly half of consumers plan to donate more to nonprofits in 2018 than they did in 2017. Additionally, despite the divisiveness evident in the recent midterm elections, nearly half of respondents have faith in their fellow citizens, believing Americans are becoming more generous in support of issues and causes.

In the wake of a series of major natural disasters across the United States and internationally, support for those impacted by disasters—as well as health-related causes—will be priorities for donors. And while results of the midterm elections are not expected to heavily influence giving, recent high-profile events, such as the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, plus awareness of the changing tax laws and potential write-offs, are expected to impact where and how much donors give.

This survey was the second part of a two-phased effort to measure end-of-year giving trends against current events—including recent disasters, tragedies, political events, and pop culture moments. The first survey, conducted in September 2018, found that disaster relief was top of mind for charitable donations, and technology has a tremendous effect on charitable giving. The second survey aimed to take a closer look at the country's current landscape to determine if consumer behavior or sentiments changed based on key events.

Top findings from the Classy survey include:

Donors expect to give more, not less, than last year. After almost a full year since tax code changes went into effect (expected to cost nonprofits billions of dollars in donations), nearly half of consumers (49 percent) plan to donate more money to charity than they did in 2017. Only 10 percent say they're planning to give less this year. Furthermore, donors from higher-income households are very likely to increase donations, as 74 percent of households earning $100K to $150K and 85 percent of households earning more than $150K plan to give more to charities this year. However, most households earning under $100K plan to keep their contributions the same as last year.

The "Election Effect" isn't expected to impact charitable giving this holiday season. In a year of historic voter turnout, the majority of Americans say the outcome of the 2018 midterm elections will not affect their plans to donate money on Giving Tuesday or throughout the giving season. Only one-third of consumers said that the election results will impact their plans to give. However, more Republicans than Democrats (44 percent vs. 32 percent) say that the outcome will affect their charitable giving this year. Voting may be connected to generosity and volunteerism, as Americans who say they voted in the midterm elections are twice as likely to donate money on Giving Tuesday than nonvoters. Those who say they voted are also twice as likely to volunteer this holiday season when compared to nonvoters.

Disaster relief, health causes, and current events all rank as top reasons to donate to charity in 2018. As devastating fires and hurricanes impact millions of Americans, disaster relief ranks highest among causes consumers are most likely to donate to this year, followed by health-related causes and environment/animal causes. Fifty-four percent of respondents say they have already donated or plan to donate to Hurricane Michael and/or Florence domestic relief efforts, and 49 percent have donated or will donate to international disasters this year. Other recent tragedies and events are top of mind too, with 44 percent of Americans saying that the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting makes them more likely to donate to charity by the end of the year, and 37 percent citing immigration issues as a motivator for them to donate to charity by the end of the year.

Changes to the tax code will likely not affect giving this year, but awareness of reduced tax benefits could impact donation amounts, especially among certain demographics. Even though only 10 percent of Americans say a tax write-off is their primary reason for giving, 42 percent say that they would definitely or probably donate less if they knew they were getting less of a tax incentive. Among the respondents, Gen X was the most tax break-motivated, with 62 percent saying they'd give less if they knew they'd receive less of a tax break, compared to millennials at 42 percent, Baby Boomers at 10 percent, and the Silent Generation at 6 percent. Also of note, men were more likely than women to say that a lower tax break would result in them donating less to charity (59 percent of men vs. 22 percent of women).

Political divisiveness and tax changes aside, more people still have faith that their fellow Americans are becoming more, not less, generous. In a year marked by increasing partisan discord, nearly half of consumers (49 percent) believe Americans are becoming more generous in their support of causes, while 21 percent say less generous. Among these respondents, men are more likely than women to believe Americans are increasingly generous (63 percent vs. 35 percent).

Find Classy's full report, Why America Gives, here.