AS Congress considers deep cuts in the current budget for...

salmagundi

March 29, 1995

AS Congress considers deep cuts in the current budget for national service programs, supporters of those cuts are insisting that voluntarism is on the rise in America and that there is no need for government to foot the bill for national service. However, new data from Independent Sector, a coalition of more than 800 voluntary organizations, foundations and corporate giving programs, has compiled data that is less encouraging.

Respondents to its survey of trends in giving and volunteering report fewer household contributions to the arts since 1989. Arts organizations are also receiving a steadily declining share of total contributions.

After several years of steady increases in the percentage of the population reporting household gifts to education, there was a decline in 1993, although there was an increase in the average size of household gifts. The rate of volunteering for education was fairly steady over the years surveyed (1987-1993), although volunteering in general declined across the country.

Environmental causes saw a sharp decline in giving and volunteering in 1993, after several years of steady increases. The percentage of respondents reporting household contributions to human services organizations was higher in 1991 and 1993 than in previous surveys, and their average contributions increased in 1989 and 1991. But in 1993 the average contribution dropped to 1987 levels.

Religious organizations also got both bad news and good. The percentages of respondents reporting household contributions and volunteering to religious organizations have gradually declined since 1989. However, the declines have not been as great as to other types of charities, and while the average size of household contributions declined for most charities between 1991 and 1993, religious organizations enjoyed an increase.

The bottom line? A mixed picture for volunteerism and charitable giving, not a clear, strong increase.

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