- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 27, 2002

Americans who help religious congregations not only give more time and money than people working with secular causes, but provide three-quarters of secular charity as well, a new study shows.
The study found that "religion-giving households" in 2000 gave 87.5 percent of all charitable contributions in the nation, for an average of $2,100 for each household.
"Givers to religious congregations are dramatically more generous than others," said the report, issued by Independent Sector, a nonprofit research organization, and the National Council of Churches.
Six in 10 American households give to a religious congregation and more than 85 percent of those also gave to secular organizations, said the study, based on in-depth interviews with 4,000 adults in representative households nationwide.
"These findings will be especially important to secular nonprofits," said Independent Sector President Sara Melendez, noting that they may want to appeal more to religious Americans. She spoke at a New York briefing for the report's release today.
The Rev. Bob Edgar, a former Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania and general secretary of the church council, said at the briefing that the gap between secular and religious giving was "larger than I had anticipated."
He linked the difference to how people in religious traditions "learn the concepts of stewardship and giving" at worship and in their homes, a point that other Independent Sector surveys has confirmed.
The new study, "Faith and Philanthropy," defined religious giving as only donations directed to religious organizations, not to affiliates such as schools or hospitals.
"The influence of faith extends to volunteering," the study said, noting that 54 percent of regular worshippers also volunteer. That compares with a volunteering rate of 32 percent by Americans who do not attend a house of worship.
Religious givers volunteer for secular charities as much as secular Americans, averaging about 10 hours a month.
And the most actively religious people work the most volunteer hours. "In round numbers, one-third of the people give two-thirds of the time," the report said.
Overall, the study said, 10 percent of American households give nothing to charity and another 10 percent give only to their own religious group. Those who give only to religious groups average $1,154 in annual contributions, the study said.
Those who give only to secular organizations, which is the case for 30 percent of American households, put an average of $623 in donation envelopes each year.
"These findings hold across all income groups, all regions of the country, and are true whether the household owns or rents," the study said.
In terms of policy, the study found that Americans who itemized their donations on tax returns tended to give more, suggesting that new laws rewarding itemizers may increase giving by all citizens.

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