Majority of Americans Plan to Give to Charity this Holiday Season Despite Continued Slow Economy

Even as the nation weathers an economic downturn for a third straight holiday season, the majority of Americans are more committed than ever to charitable giving, according to a new American Red Cross poll.

A telephone survey of 1,020 adults conducted earlier this fall found that even though 67 percent of Americans didn’t think the economic downturn would last this long, they still want to give to charities, with more than seven out of 10 saying they expect to donate more or about the same this holiday season as they did last year.

“Despite the difficult economy Americans want to give to help others in need,” said Red Cross President and CEO Gail J. McGovern. “With so many people out of work, they want to give something that means something.”

Other key findings include:

  • Four in five (80 percent) of respondents felt their finances are either the same or worse than they were last year.
  • Sixty-eight percent of Americans believe that because of the economy, it’s important to give something to charity. That’s a 10 percentage point increase over the 58 percent who felt that way last year.
  • More than half (55 percent) of Americans say they feel bad about spending money on gifts people might not use.
  • Four in five (79 percent) agreed that they would rather have a charitable donation in their honor than get a gift they wouldn’t use.
  • About one in five (19 percent) of respondents plan on giving blood this holiday season.

Despite the tough economy, the survey shows that Americans still feel very charitable during the holidays. Nearly six in 10 (57 percent) plan to give to charity between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In addition, four in five Americans agreeing that helping someone less fortunate is an important part of their holiday tradition.

However, of those who would not be donating to charity, most say they either can’t afford do it or they have already given their charitable gifts for the year. More than a third (36 percent) of people say they are not planning to make a financial donation this holiday season, and nearly half of them (49 percent) say it’s because they can’t spare the money right now.

Holiday Giving Poll Americans want to give meaningful gifts this year click on the image for larger view of this infographic, click on the link above for a printable PDF.

This is the third year the Red Cross has conducted a holiday giving national survey, and this new survey shows that people continue to cut back on their holiday spending in a number of areas. The 2011 survey found that 45 percent were planning to cut back on spending for travel and for holiday decorations, 40 percent were reducing spending on parties, and more than a third (35 percent) were cutting back on gifts. The area seeing the smallest reduction was charitable donations, as about a quarter (26 percent) said they were planning to cut back in this area.

However, this cost cutting comes with some guilt: 43 percent of Americans reported feeling badly about spending less on gifts for friends and family.

Men and Women Take Different View on Charity and Gift Giving The survey found men and women varied significantly on their views regarding charity and gift giving during the holidays. Women tended to be more concerned about giving meaningful and practical gifts, with 61 percent of women feeling bad about spending money on gifts people might not use – 13 points higher than the 48 percent of men who responded that way.

While more women than men (70 percent to 61 percent, respectively) say charity helps them get into the holiday spirit, men are more likely to spend more on donations. About a third of men (32 percent) plan to donate more than $100, compared to a fifth (20 percent) of women who plan to donate that much.

Men and women also differ on the effects of the economic downturn. Nearly two thirds of women (66 percent) say the economy has helped them focus on what’s important during the holidays, 17 points higher than the 49 percent of men. In addition, more than seven in 10 women (71 percent) say they feel badly they can’t give more to charity this year, compared to 51 percent of men.

American Red Cross Holiday Catalog Offers Meaningful Gifts As Americans look for more meaningful ways to give this holiday season, the Red Cross is offering its 2011 Holiday Giving Catalog, which includes a variety of symbolic gifts, donations that support Red Cross programs.

Donors can help vaccinate an entire village, provide food and shelter to a disaster victim, help purchase items like phone cards and supplies for members of the armed forces or help supply basic necessities to families in desperate need in countries across the world. Catalog purchases also come with greeting cards to show others your support during the holidays. The purchase of each gift item is a tax-deductible contribution and provides support to the mission of the Red Cross.

“We hope Americans will choose a gift from the Red Cross catalog when they shop for their loved ones,” McGovern said. “It’s a gift that may mean more than an extra sweater or necktie.

“It’s been a challenging year – from Japan, to Alabama and Joplin to Hurricane Irene,” she added. “The holidays remind us of what’s really important, and a gift to the Red Cross helps people during the most difficult times of their lives.”

Survey details: Telephone survey of 1,020 U.S. Adults 18 years and older on September 29 - October 2, 2011 conducted in ORC International’s CARAVAN® survey using a landline-cell dual-frame sampling design. Margin of error is +/- 3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.