More people here give money fewer volunteer

November 13, 1990|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,Evening Sun Staff

People living in the Baltimore metropolitan area are generous with their money, but tight with their time compared with the nation as a whole, according to a study of giving and volunteering released today.

The survey, underwritten by a non-profit group called Partners for Giving, found that 87 percent of Central Maryland households made some type of monetary donation to charity in the past 12 months. Only 34 percent of those polled, however, volunteered during the same time period. Nationally, only 75 percent give, but 54 percent volunteer.

Although a larger percentage of Central Marylanders give money, they don't give as much as the national average when the contributions are calculated as a percentage of income. Among those who give in this area, the 12-month average is $503, or 1.5 percent of reported household income, compared with 2.5 percent of household income nationwide.

"I was very pleased to see that 12 percent more give, but I was surprised to see we give less," said Frank Gunther, who chairs Partners for Giving along with his wife, Mary Ellen. "So it's not a matter of convincing people to give, but to give more. We have a leg up, in that we already have the attention of 87 percent of our population."

Gunther's other concern, after reviewing the survey, is to coax people into volunteering. Only 16 percent of those who had volunteered reported negative experiences, Gunther said, so the key is in getting people to start.

In telephone interviews with 1,006 people earlier this fall, the study found: "Time commitments are the most frequently mentioned reason for not volunteering, coupled with the belief that one can fulfill one's social obligation by donating money in lieu of time."

The study also found that many failed to volunteer because they had not been asked. The overall level of volunteering could be increased to 39 to 42 percent if people were simply asked, the study estimated.

Partners for Giving, which commissioned the study, is a coalition of businesses, foundations and non-profit organizations. The coalition hopes to convince people in the metropolitan area that the non-profit sector plays an important role in the quality of life. The study is intended as a baseline survey that will allow the coalition to measure its impact on giving and volunteering.

The survey results were to be announced today in conjunction with National Philanthropy Day, which also is the kick-off for the Bags of Plenty food drive sponsored by the Maryland Food Committee and Maryland Food Bank. The annual food drive hopes to raise $150,000 and 650,000 pounds in food.

As its first step toward increasing participation, the coalition authorized the study on local attitudes and experiences, which then was compared with a 1990 Gallup Poll. While differences in methodology make comparisons somewhat tricky, the Central Maryland study hoped to determine not only how many gave or volunteered, but also the demographics of those who gave, and how to increase levels of giving and volunteering.

Some of what the study found may seem self-evident: Wealthier households give more and volunteer more. The incidence of volunteering is higher -- 47 percent -- among those who attend religious services weekly.

However, the report notes: "[While] the average amount of dollars given to charities and religious institutions increases dramatically with household income . . . the percentage of income contributed to charity decreases with income."

Households with incomes of less than $10,000 contributed 3.9 percent of their income, with those in the $30,000-$50,000 range giving 1.2 percent. In households with incomes over $50,000, it was only 1.1 percent.

Most of those who gave, 64 percent, were motivated by the perception that giving was beneficial. Only 5 percent cited tax deductions as a major factor in giving.

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