Despite Shaky Economy, Americans Remain Charitable...But With a More Critical Eye

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Despite Shaky Economy, Americans Remain Charitable...But With a More Critical Eye

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      On the One Hand….

  • 97% Say It’s Important to Contribute to the Greater Good; Same Level as in ’06 Survey

  • 80% Say Their Charitable Donations in ’09 Will Be Same or More than Last Year

  • 90% Say They Will Donate as Much or More in 2010 

      But on the Other…
  • Over Half Say Operating Efficiency of a Charity Is More Important Now Than a Year Ago

  • Two-Thirds Now More Concerned About Measuring the Impact of Their Donations

  • Most See Charities as Doing a Poor Job of Educating Public on How Donations Are Spent

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 - 8:00am

CAMPAIGN: 2009 Tiller Social Action Survey

CONTENT: Press Release

(3BLMedia/theCSRfeed) NEW YORK, N.Y. - DEC. 23, 2009 – Even a struggling economy and tight household budgets are not stopping Americans from giving back, but their generosity is coming with closer scrutiny.

Four out of five Americans who give to charity say they will donate as much if not more this year than in 2008, but two-thirds of those polled said they are increasingly concerned with measuring the impact of their donations, according to the results of the second Tiller Social Action Survey, released here today by Tiller, LLC, a leading advocacy marketing consultancy.
“It’s been a challenging year for many Americans. Unemployment hit a 25-year high and the markets hit a 12-year low, but our desire to help others has never wavered,” said Tiller Founder and CEO Rob Densen. “That said, a stressed economy has made us all more value-conscious – both in our personal spending and in our charitable endeavors. That’s a trend that non-profits are ill-advised to ignore.” 
Charitable Instincts Remain Strong
Americans remain remarkably focused on helping others. Ninety-seven percent of those surveyed said it’s important to contribute to the greater good; that compares with 98% who responded that way in the 2006 survey.
Eighty-two percent of respondents said it is important to donate money and 79% had done so already in 2009.
“According to the Tiller research, 29% of Americans will donate more this year than last,” said Brian Perlman, partner and SVP at Greenwald & Associates.  “As recent data show, that’s three times the number that plan on spending more on holiday gifts.  Everyone focuses on holiday sales; maybe holiday donations are the more telling numbers.”
Encouragingly, prospects for next year are good, as 90% of those who donated in 2009 said their donations in 2010 will be the same or above this year’s level.
But donating money isn’t the only way of giving back. Sixty percent of those surveyed said they had volunteered in 2009. Asked about random acts of kindness – defined as a spontaneous act of kindness, frequently performed for someone you don’t know – just about three in five (59%) of Americans said they perform one at least weekly. 
Making a Charity List and Checking It Twice  
Americans are paying closer attention to how their charitable dollars are being spent.
Among Americans who’ve made charitable donations in 2009, 51% said the operating efficiency of the companies they donate to is more important than a year ago, 44% said it was the same and only 5% said it was less important.
And Americans are doing their homework. Fifty-three percent of Americans at least occasionally check a charity’s operating efficiency rating. Interestingly, 19% of Americans say they always check a charity’s efficiency rating – up substantially from 12% in the 2006 survey.
“Understandably, a struggling economy and volatile markets make us all a little more bottom-line focused,” Densen said. “But the recent financial and economic crisis has further rattled Americans’ confidence in Corporate America and ignited a debate relative to alignment of interest and transparency.  This reaction has been indiscriminant and non-profits, NGO’s and associations are suffering a perceptual spillover.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, just over one-third (34%) of respondents – only 4% strongly and 30% somewhat – agreed with the statement that “charities do a good job educating the public on how donations are spent.”
“We believe the survey findings represent both an opportunity and an object lesson for non-profits,” said Tiller principal Heather Emerson. “Americans are increasingly value-oriented and are looking to support non-profits that put their dollars to best use. Non-profits who recognize that and can effectively communicate their financial accountability and controls along with the import of their cause will have an important leg up.” 
*     *     *     *
Tiller, LLC is one of the nation’s leading consultancies in the creation and implementation of advocacy marketing programs for major U.S. corporations. For more information on the 2009 Tiller Social Action Survey, a checklist of 12 random acts of kindness, and contact information for volunteer opportunities, please go to the Tiller website:  Have some fresh, creative ideas for random acts of kindness? Please send them to We will post our favorites on our website.
Mathew Greenwald & Associates is a premier full service market research firm headquartered in Washington, D.C.
Rob Densen/Jim Marren, Tiller, LLC
(212) 358-8515


Keywords: Charitable | Charity | Contribute | Donate | Donations | Economy | Greater Good | Social Action | rob densen | tiller

CAMPAIGN: 2009 Tiller Social Action Survey

CONTENT: Press Release