It Seems Pretty Simple…

What’s a charity?  Seems like a simple question.  Rescue mission?  Yes.  Animal shelter?  Yes.  Gas station?  No.

But it’s much more complex than that.  Is a museum a “charity”?  What about a hospital?  A private school?

Homeless shelters, universities, churches, and service clubs are all out there trying to raise money. But they’re working on a perceptual playing field that’s anything but level.

So What Is a Charity?

That depends on who you ask.  Close to nine out of ten Americans mentally include homeless shelters in their definition of “charities,” but the same proportion exclude universities and private schools.  In the mind of a typical American, animal shelters are charities, museums are not.  Religious congregations?  Faith-based organizations?  Well, that depends on whether you’re religious.

Just to show how confusing this can be, only 27% of Americans tend to think of hospitals as charities.  However, it’s exactly the opposite with children’s hospitals – seven out of ten people do think of children’s hospitals as charities.

Get the Full Picture

Grey Matter Research and Harmon Research asked 1,000 Americans what they think of as a “charity,” as in “Teresa just donated to her favorite charity.”  In our research report What’s a Charity?, we identify two critical factors which appear to have a significant impact on whether various types of organizations are thought of as charities people can support with their donations.

You can request a free copy of the report simply by e-mailing  We’ll gladly send it along, but not bombard you with constant sales attempts afterwards.

Words Matter

Perceptions about what is a charity and what isn’t are a confusing mix.  Not only that, but the words Americans use for the whole Third Sector – charity, non-profit, charitable organization, ministry – vary quite a bit from one person to the next.

Words matter.  Learn how the people you’re trying to reach think about different sectors of the donor-supported world, and what words they use related to donor-supported organizations.

Remember, just send a quick note at and we’ll be happy to send you the report.

And While You’re at It…

We have helped scores of donor-supported organizations large and small understand their current, lapsed, and potential donors.  No one has more expertise with helping non-profits (or charities, or ministries) and the agencies that serve them than Grey Matter Research.  From veterans to disaster relief to education to medical, and many other causes, we understand donors.  Talk to us about what you need to know in order to be more effective in funding your work.


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