As the holiday season rolls in, the spirit of giving and volunteerism becomes especially poignant. It's a crucial time for organizations that rely on the generosity of the community to fulfill their missions. This is the moment to not only participate in giving but to understand the trends and factors that can empower our actions and strategies for meaningful impact. As we navigate the ebb and flow of societal trends, the latest research from the Do Good Institute, supported by the Generosity Commission, sheds light on the recent declines in giving and volunteering across the United States. This blog delves into the findings of the report, "Understanding Generosity: A Look at What Influences Volunteering and Giving in the United States," and extracts valuable suggestions for leaders, business owners, and non-profit founders to harness this knowledge for societal benefit.
A Decline in Generosity: Beyond the Pandemic
The Do Good Institute's research presents a concerning trend: a steady decrease in the percentage of Americans volunteering and donating to charity, independent of the economic distress prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic or recent inflationary pressures ("Understanding Generosity," 2023). Since the early 2000s, there's been a consistent decline in the number of people donating, and from the early 2010s, volunteer rates have followed suit.
Key Influencers on Generosity
Education: The report highlights educational attainment as the strongest predictor of volunteering, with college graduates being significantly more likely to offer their time than those without high school diplomas ("Understanding Generosity," 2023).
Age: A major factor in donating, with older individuals demonstrating a higher likelihood of giving.
Family Dynamics: Parents with children under 18 are more engaged in giving and volunteering activities compared to non-parents.
Gender: Women show a higher propensity both to volunteer and to donate than men.
Marital Status: Married individuals living with their spouses are likelier to be generous in both aspects, compared to those never married.
Employment: Part-time workers volunteer more than their full-time counterparts, but full-time workers are the most likely to give to charity.
Location: Rural residents tend to volunteer more, whereas suburbanites are more inclined to donate.
Suggestions for Leaders and Organizations
1. Tailor Your Strategies
Organizations must tailor their engagement strategies to resonate with the identified demographic groups. For instance, crafting volunteer opportunities that appeal to educated individuals or designing donation campaigns that connect with older age demographics can maximize participation.
2. Foster Family-Friendly Volunteering
Encouraging family participation in volunteer activities can be particularly fruitful. Programs that engage parents and children can leverage the higher propensity of parents to volunteer and give.
3. Engage Women in Leadership
Given women's higher likelihood to volunteer and donate, organizations should consider involving women more in leadership roles within philanthropy and volunteering programs, potentially increasing overall engagement.
4. Support Nonprofits Strategically
The report suggests that small nonprofits are particularly appealing to potential donors. Efforts should be made to support these organizations, possibly through partnerships, to enhance their visibility and effectiveness in fundraising.
5. Leverage Rural and Suburban Networks
Creating community-based volunteer programs in rural areas and donor campaigns in suburban localities could harness the inherent willingness of these populations to engage in philanthropic activities.
The Road Ahead
This report not only serves as an eye-opener but also as a call to action for leaders to innovate in their approach to building a culture of giving and volunteering. While macro-level influences play a role, it is the micro-level dynamics that leaders must keenly understand and address.
For non-profit founders and business owners, adapting to these findings is not just about securing resources; it's about fostering community spirit and strengthening the very fabric of our society.
The comprehensive analysis provided by the Do Good Institute, in collaboration with the Generosity Commission, offers an invaluable guide for steering the philanthropic and civic engagement strategies of the future. For those who lead, it's an opportunity to not only proceed with informed direction but also to exceed in making a meaningful impact.
Reflection Questions for Leaders
Assessment of Outreach Strategies: How does your current approach to engaging volunteers and donors align with the demographic trends outlined in the report? Are there specific groups you may have overlooked that could potentially be a rich source of support for your organization?
Evaluation of Organizational Impact: In what ways can your organization better serve as a catalyst for building social capital and strengthening community bonds through volunteer and donor opportunities?
Strategic Planning for Engagement: What innovative strategies could you implement to attract volunteers and donors who are motivated by personal values and a sense of community, rather than solely the presence of a nonprofit? How can you make your mission resonate on a more personal level with potential contributors?
Dr. Wanita Mercer, Ph.D. is the founder and CEO of Lead My Heart, an executive coaching and consulting company specializing in equipping executives and executive teams to live and lead with purpose, passion, and power. She has a Ph.D. in Education with an emphasis in organizational leadership, and she is certified in life coaching, executive coaching, change management, project management, executive management, corporate crisis management, and mental health ministry. She has over 15 years of experience as an international educator in the USA and China, motivational speaker, author, and civic leader. She lives in San Antonio, Texas.