As Some Donors Disengage, BBB Shares How to Give Wisely this Holiday Season

The Charities Aid Foundation World Giving Index has identified the United States as the most generous country over the past decade, based on the number of people who report helping a stranger, donating money, or volunteering.

However, the portion of American households donating to charity has declined steadily.

On this giving Tuesday, new research from BBB’s sheds light on the reasons why.

In a recent survey, 59% of people with a household income above $70k who stopped giving to charities over the past five years agreed with the statement “there are people out there with significantly more money who should give to charity instead of me.”

The Special Donor Trust Report: Donor Participation surveyed more than 2,100 adults in the United States to explore why some donors disengage with charities and possible ways to encourage greater participation moving forward.

“News about declining numbers of households contributing to charities is concerning as this makes the sector more vulnerable and less pluralistic,” said H. Art Taylor, President and CEO of BBB’s

“Unfortunately, our survey also shows that people who stopped or decreased their giving to charities over the past five years are least likely to say they might increase their giving moving forward.”

Other report highlights include:

  • 71.6% of Matures report maintaining or increasing their contributions, as compared to 42.2% of Gen Zers.
  • 76.9% of Boomers who stopped donating said they could not afford to, compared to only 27.3% of Gen Zers. On the other hand, 45.4% of Gen Zers who stopped contributing said they did not feel like they had been asked, compared to only 3.8% of Boomers.
  • Finances aside, among people with household income above $70k who stopped donating, the most frequent explanation was not trusting the soliciting charity (17.4%). Among people with household income above $70k who decreased their contributions, the most frequent explanation was preferring other ways of being generous (25.0%).
  • Among those who stopped contributing to charities, only 1 in 4 (25.5%) think that donating to charity has a stronger impact on society than shopping at socially responsible businesses. In contrast, 58.3% of people who increased their contributions to charity believe donating to charity has a stronger impact.
  • Comparing across generations, Gen Zers are most likely to say they continue to give because they “want to be part of something bigger” (47.0%). Boomers are most likely to say “everyone should contribute what they can” (34.2%) and Matures are most likely to say their faith or religion calls for it (27.5%).

Wise Giving Advice:

Forty-percent of donations are made during the last few weeks of the year. BBB’s urges donors to give thoughtfully by taking the time to investigate charities before making a donation and to visit to verify if a charity meets the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.

* Be cautious about name confusion. When charities seek support for the same cause, the names can sometimes appear similar. Before you give, be sure you have the exact name of the charity to avoid a case of mistaken identity.

* Understand registration requirements. In the U.S., about 40 states require charities to register with a government agency, usually a division of either the Attorney General’s office or Secretary of State’s office. Keep in mind that registration with a government agency does not mean the government approves, recommends, or endorses the charity.

* Consider tax-exempt status. There are over 1 million organizations that have applied for and received charitable tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. In part, this means these groups are eligible to receive gifts that are deductible as charitable donations and will file an annual financial form with the IRS. It does not mean the Internal Revenue Service approves, recommends or endorses the charity.

* Watch out for overly emotional appeals. If an appeal brings tears to your eyes, make sure it is also clear about what the charity intends to do to address the issues. Visit the charities website for details about their program services.

*Generational age ranges used in the Donor Trust Report: Generation Z (18-24), Millennial (25-40) Generation X (41-56) Boomers (57-75), Matures (76-93).

ABOUT BBB WISE GIVING ALLIANCE: BBB Wise Giving Alliance (BBB’s is a standards-based charity evaluator that seeks to verify the trustworthiness of nationally soliciting charities by completing rigorous evaluations based on 20 holistic standards that address charity governance, results reporting, finances, fundraising, appeal accuracy and other issues. National charity reports are produced by BBB’s and local charity reports are produced by local Better Business Bureaus – all reports are available at