Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Religion has a great influence on Americans' charitable donations

As reported by Ben Grose of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, August 19, 2012:

Regions of the country that are deeply religious are more generous than those that are not. Two of the top nine states—Utah and Idaho—have high numbers of Mormon residents, who have a tradition of tithing at least 10 percent of their income to the church. The remaining states in the top nine are all in the Bible Belt...

...Perhaps nowhere is the role of religion clearer than in Utah, where the majority of residents are Mormon.

The Provo-Orem metropolitan area is especially generous, with its residents giving an average of 13.9 percent of their discretionary income to charity.

James T. Evans, chief operating officer at Xactware, a software company in Orem with 450 employees, says he saw the number of Xactware employees who donate to the United Way shoot up from a handful a few years ago to 70 last fall, after the company sent a record number of volunteers to a “Day of Caring” event organized by the United Way.

“The volunteering hooks people into the important needs in our community,” Mr. Evans says. “Then during the workplace campaign, they say 'Gosh, I’ve seen some of those needs—I should give a little more.’”

Mr. Evans and his wife, Tana, also give generously, on top of their support for the Mormon Church. While watching their daughter play high-school basketball, they noticed the boys teams always got more attention. That prompted the couple to endow a women’s basketball scholarship at Brigham Young University for $250,000.

The Evanses also give more than $10,000 a year to the United Way and make gifts to their school district to pay for small projects. “After taking care of our home and putting some aside for retirement, we just look for opportunities to give the other stuff away,” says Mr. Evans, who became mayor of Orem last October.

Giving 'Primes the Pump’

People like Mr. Evans are common across America, says Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. Mr. Brooks wrote a book, Who Really Cares, that examined research on giving and found that religious people give more generously to secular charities—even environmental causes and the arts—than nonreligious people.

“They’re just in a giving culture,” Mr. Brooks says. “You give to one thing, and it primes the pump and you give more to everything.”

But some nonprofit experts question whether religious donations should even factor into generosity rankings. “Giving to a church is a different kind of giving than giving to other charities,” says Steve Rothschild, founder of a job-training program in Minneapolis. “Giving to a church is 'inward-centered’: You get a personal benefit from it. If you’re giving to an antipoverty program, it’s 'other-centered.’”

Nonprofit boosters in New Hampshire might be happier if religion were excluded. A study by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University found that the residents of New Hampshire—which ranked dead last in both surveys by The Chronicle—weren’t stingy; they were simply nonbelievers.

“New Hampshire gives next to nothing to religious organizations,” says Patrick Rooney, the center’s leader, “but their secular giving is identical to the rest of country.”

In The Chronicle’s study, New Hampshire rises from last to 38th—still in the bottom quartile—after the adjustment to remove religious giving.

Starting in 1999, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation tried to stimulate greater generosity through a public-awareness campaign about the state’s low giving rates, but it didn’t accomplish much, and it has since been largely disbanded.

“I don’t think data and finger-wagging inspire people,” says Deborah Schachter, who once directed the Giving New Hampshire drive and still works at the community foundation.

No comments:

Post a Comment