What Gives with Giving?

America is a generous country and during the holiday season even more people think about giving to charity.

A study from Network for Good, who process online charitable donations of over one million non-profit groups, reports on the over $100 million donated to 20,000 groups through the site since November 2001.

Findings show that:

  • The average age of online donors is 38

  • Offline donors tend to be over 60 years old
  • The most generous online donors are from New York, Connecticut and Washington D.C.
  • In 2005, disaster relief and international groups got the most online, $24.5 million
  • Animal related organizations ranked third
  • Human services and education was in fourth place.

The study also found that the group's donors gave an average of $137 in 2005, which is $110 more than the industry standard. When disaster relief was removed from the calculations, almost 7 out of 10 dollars were donated to small and medium sized charitable groups.

Only 3 percent of donors use credit cards to make automatic donations, donated at preset intervals, but 28 percent said they would consider reoccurring donations if they were offered by a charity they selected, according to MasterCard internal research.

An American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Bulletin poll finds that older Americans are very generous, with 1 out of 10 of the 65 and older group donating $5000 or more in 2005. The survey polled 930 people, 18 years and older. Those aged 39 to 49 were next in giving, at 9 percent, followed by 7 percent for the 50 to 64 year olds.

"The need is so great that many people who'd never given charitable donations before gave for the first time," said Robbin Wilson, director of member philanthropy for the AARP Foundation, "and those who'd always given dug deep in their pockets to help."

The overall contributions of Americans last year were $260 billion, an increase over 2004 of 2.7 percent. Religious groups were the top beneficiaries (66 percent), followed by groups which benefit children, the needy and older adults (54 percent), hospitals and charities that are connected to specific diseases (50 percent), and educational organizations, including colleges and schools (45 percent).

Those that had the most, gave the most, and incomes of $75,000 or more favored the arts and organizations connected to culture. The $25,000-$49,000 group gave more to organizations such as police or firemen and those making less than $25,000 more often gave to either religious or general groups such as the United Way.

A provision in The Pension Protection Act of 2006 allows those 70 1/2 years of age to make tax-free donations from IRA accounts and this may affect year-end donations.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests that donors call to verify before giving to any unfamiliar group, ask for a receipt and avoid cash gifts.

For more information, see IRS Offers Tips for Year-End Charitable Donations and IRS Issues New Guidelines for Charitable Payroll Deductions.

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