Most non-donors feel “people with a lot of money” should give so they don’t have to, but also harbor a number of concerns about the efficiency and effectiveness of non-profit organizations

(Original release date:  April 23, 2012)  Most people who do not financially support any non-profit organizations believe the wealthy need to step up and give to charity so they don’t have to.  A majority of non-donors also have concerns that most non-profits aren’t really solving any problems, and that too much of their money would go toward overhead and expenses to make their gift worthwhile.

 

At the same time, some desire to help still exists:  most non-donors claim they wish they had enough money to be able to give to non-profit organizations.

 

Grey Matter Research (Phoenix, Arizona) surveyed a demographically representative sample of 458 American adults who have not made any financial contributions to a non-profit organization in the past 12 months.  (Local houses of worship, such as churches or synagogues, are excluded from the definition of “non-profit organizations” in this study.)

 

Rather than asking non-donors to detail why they don’t give, the study explored their perceptions of non-profits and giving.  Ron Sellers, president of Grey Matter Research, explained that this is because “People can pretty accurately tell us their opinions, but most people don’t even fully understand exactly what motivates them to do the things they do.  Behavior is often such a mix of different factors that it can be difficult for consumers to explain or even comprehend exactly why they behave a certain way.”

 

First, note that many non-donors do express a desire to be donors.  Eighty-three percent agree that “I wish I had enough money to be able to give some to non-profit organizations,” including 42% who agree strongly, and 41% who agree somewhat.

 

This may not just be an empty sentiment, either, considering that 37% of all non-donors have some type of charitable involvement:  20% have made a financial contribution to a place of worship, 19% have volunteered with a place of worship, and 15% have volunteered their time with a non-profit organization during the last 12 months.

 

However, perceptions of what “enough money” means may also vary from one person to the next, considering that non-donors from households earning $100,000 or more annually are just as likely as those from households earning under $20,000 to wish they had enough money to donate some.

 

Although many non-donors wish they could support non-profits, most also believe the onus should not be on people like them to provide this support.  Eighty-one percent of all non-donors agree with the statement, “People who have a lot of money need to step up and support non-profit organizations, rather than people like me providing the support.”  Forty-five percent agree strongly with this statement; another 36% agree somewhat with it.

 

This perspective does vary considerably by household income; while 61% of the lowest-income non-donors agree strongly with the statement, only 16% of those earning $100,000 or more share their belief.  People under age 35 are particularly likely to feel this way, and politically liberal non-donors are far more likely than conservatives to hold this opinion strongly (55% to 32%).

 

Four out of ten non-donors agree with the statement, “Any gift I could afford to give to a non-profit organization really isn’t enough to make a difference.”  Only 10% agree strongly, while another 29% agree somewhat with the statement.  Again, people from households earning under $20,000 annually and those from households earning $100,000 or more are equally likely to hold this perspective.

 

Non-donors also express a number of concerns about non-profit organizations.  For one thing, 61% say “So many non-profit organizations are asking for money that it’s just a turn-off,” including 20% who agree strongly with this, and another 41% who agree somewhat.  Complaints about this increase as age increases.

 

Fifty-eight percent of non-donors also believe “If I gave to a non-profit organization, too much of my money would go toward overhead and expenses to make my gift worthwhile.”  Twenty percent feel strongly about this, with another 38% agreeing somewhat.

 

Efficacy also concerns many non-donors.  Fifty-seven percent worry that “Most non-profit organizations don’t actually solve any needs or problems – they just provide short-term solutions and the needs or problems are still there.”  Eighteen percent agree strongly with this statement; another 39% agree somewhat with it.

 

In total, 34% of all non-donors agree strongly with at least one of these three concerns about non-profit organizations, while 85% agree strongly or somewhat with at least one of these statements.

 

With so many people harboring concerns about non-profits, it may be no surprise that only 34% feel strongly that “If I wanted to support a non-profit organization, I am confident I could find one that would use my money wisely.”  Another 47% are willing to agree somewhat with the statement.

 

While over eight out of ten non-donors want people with “a lot of money” to step up and help out, much less common is the perspective that this is the government’s job.  Thirty-eight percent feel that “I pay taxes to provide government services for people who have needs, so I don’t also need to give money to non-profit organizations” (12% agree strongly, while 26% agree somewhat).  Non-donors who describe themselves as politically liberal are far more likely than others to hold this opinion (26% agree strongly, compared to 5% of moderates and 10% of conservatives).

 

Also relatively uncommon is the perspective that “In general, people need to get through challenges on their own without help from non-profit organizations.”  Just 6% agree strongly with this, while another 24% agree somewhat.  Still, only 25% disagree strongly with this statement, showing that many people harbor at least some doubts on this topic.

 

Ron Sellers, president of Grey Matter Research, noted that the findings in this study demonstrate that reaching non-donors is a highly complicated matter, given all the various obstacles their perspectives present.  “There are some industry consultants who act as though they have a magic bullet for attracting people to give,” Sellers said.  “Maybe that would be possible if there were only one perceptual obstacle.  But non-donors often hold a combination of opinions that act as barriers to getting them to give.”

 

“A majority of non-donors feel it should be someone else’s responsibility to support non-profits; someone with more money.  The problem is, even the people with more money often claim they don’t have enough to give, or that whatever they could afford to give wouldn’t be enough to make a difference,” he continued.

 

Sellers also pointed out that non-profits themselves may not be blameless for the fact that many Americans aren’t providing any financial support.  “Most non-donors have at least some concerns that non-profits aren’t really solving any problems, or that they’re not using the money efficiently.  And only a third feel confident they could find a good one to support should they wish to do so.  The industry needs to address these perceptions if organizations hope to have much success turning these non-donors into donors.”

 

Study Details:

The study was conducted by Grey Matter Research, a research and consumer insights company located in Phoenix, Arizona.  Grey Matter has significant experience with research related to non-profit organizations, with numerous donor supported organizations as clients.  The sample of 458 adults is accurate to within ±4.6 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level with a 50 percent response distribution.

 

The study was conducted in all 50 states.  Respondents’ age, education, household income, geography, racial/ethnic background, and gender were carefully tracked and weighted to ensure appropriate representation and accuracy.

Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.

John Wooden

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Agree/disagree with statements about charitable giving (Among all non-donors)

Note:  percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding

Strongly agree with each statement  (By age and household income)

Strongly agree with each statement  (By worship service attendance, religious identity, and political perspective)…

 

Statements

Agree

Strongly

Agree

Somewhat

Disagree

Somewhat

Disagree

Strongly

People who have a lot of money need to step up and support non-profit

   organizations, rather than people like me providing the support

 

45%

 

36%

 

13%

 

6%

I wish I had enough money to be able

   to give some to non-profit organizations

 

42

 

41

 

12

 

6

If I wanted to support a non-profit organization, I am

   confident I could find one that would use my money wisely

 

34

 

47

 

11

 

9

So many non-profit organizations are asking

   for money that it’s just a turn-off

 

20

 

41

 

21

 

18

If I gave to a non-profit organization, too much of my money

   would go toward overhead and expenses to make my gift worthwhile

 

20

 

38

 

33

 

9

Most non-profit organizations don’t actually solve

   any needs or problems – they just provide short-term

   solutions and the needs or problems are still there

 

 

18

 

 

39

 

 

30

 

 

13

I pay taxes to provide government services for people who have

   needs, so I don’t also need to give money to non-profit organizations

 

12

 

26

 

37

 

24

Any gift I could afford to give to a non-profit

   organization really isn’t enough to make a difference

 

10

 

29

 

38

 

24

In general, people need to get through challenges

   on their own without help from non-profit organizations

 

8

 

24

 

43

 

25

 

Statements

Age

<35

Age

35 – 54

Age

55+

HHI

<$20K

HHI

$20 – 49K

HHI

$50K+

People who have a lot of money need to step up and support non-profit

   organizations, rather than people like me providing the support:

 

 

 

 

 

 

  -- agree strongly

57%

31%

47%

61%

46%

26%

  -- agree somewhat

26

45

36

25

36

46

I wish I had enough money to be able

   to give some to non-profit organizations:

 

 

 

 

 

 

  -- agree strongly

37

45

43

44

36

45

  -- agree somewhat

52

29

42

40

47

35

If I wanted to support a non-profit organization, I am confident

   I could find one that would use my money wisely:

 

 

 

 

 

 

  -- agree strongly

38

36

26

36

29

37

  -- agree somewhat

44

42

57

41

54

45

So many non-profit organizations are

   asking for money that it’s just a turn-off:

 

 

 

 

 

 

  -- agree strongly

13

22

28

12

30

19

  -- agree somewhat

33

50

41

32

48

44

If I gave to a non-profit organization, too much of my money would

   go toward overhead and expenses to make my gift worthwhile:

 

 

 

 

 

 

  -- agree strongly

19

21

22

16

25

20

  -- agree somewhat

36

44

32

39

31

44

Most non-profit organizations don’t actually solve

   any needs or problems – they just provide short-term

   solutions and the needs or problems are still there:

 

 

 

 

 

 

  -- agree strongly

20

20

11

20

16

16

  -- agree somewhat

38

39

40

38

46

42

I pay taxes to provide government services for people who have

   needs, so I don’t also need to give money to non-profit organizations:

 

 

 

 

 

 

  -- agree strongly

13

18

4

19

6

13

  -- agree somewhat

26

31

21

21

26

33

Any gift I could afford to give to a non-profit organization

   really isn’t enough to make a difference:

 

 

 

 

 

 

  -- agree strongly

11

9

11

15

7

9

  -- agree somewhat

37

21

27

32

28

27

In general, people need to get through challenges

   on their own without help from non-profit organizations:

 

 

 

 

 

 

  -- agree strongly

6

10

8

5

8

12

  -- agree somewhat

20

26

24

27

21

22

 

Statements

 

Conservative

 

Moderate

 

Liberal

Attend

Worship

Don’t

Attend

Broadly

Christian

Not

Christian

People who have a lot of money need to step

   up and support non-profit organizations, rather

   than people like me providing the support:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   -- agree strongly

32%

47%

55%

36%

49%

41%

52%

   -- agree somewhat

44

37

25

43

32

41

26

I wish I had enough money to be able

   to give some to non-profit organizations:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   -- agree strongly

35

52

34

54

36

52

26

   -- agree somewhat

49

34

42

37

43

37

48

If I wanted to support a non-profit

   organization, I am confident I could

   find one that would use my money wisely:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   -- agree strongly

25

39

37

41

31

35

33

   -- agree somewhat

63

43

35

50

45

50

41

So many non-profit organizations are

   asking for money that it’s just a turn-off:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   -- agree strongly

23

20

19

16

22

16

27

   -- agree somewhat

47

39

38

45

40

45

36

If I gave to a non-profit organization, too much

   of my money would go toward overhead

   and expenses to make my gift worthwhile:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   -- agree strongly

15

24

22

14

23

15

29

   -- agree somewhat

40

38

35

36

39

40

35

Most non-profit organizations don’t actually

   solve any needs or problems – they just

   provide short-term solutions and the

   needs or problems are still there:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   -- agree strongly

12

18

23

16

18

12

28

   -- agree somewhat

44

48

19

33

41

42

36

Any gift I could afford to give to a

   non-profit organization really isn’t

   enough to make a difference:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   -- agree strongly

7

15

8

10

10

12

6

   -- agree somewhat

34

34

15

15

35

20

44

In general, people need to get through

   challenges on their own without help

   from non-profit organizations:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   -- agree strongly

11

9

3

13

6

8

7

   -- agree somewhat

26

18

28

25

23

20

30

I pay taxes to provide government services for

   people who have needs, so I don’t also need

   to give money to non-profit organizations:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   -- agree strongly

10

5

26

13

12

9

18

   -- agree somewhat

23

31

23

16

31

26

28