African Americans, Millennials More Inclined to Donate to Social Justice Charities: Survey

Trust in civil rights and community action charities increased in 2020 after years of steady declines, the Associated Press reported.

According to its Profiles in Charity Trust and Giving survey, charity evaluator reported that 16 percent of Americans had high trust in such charities, a 3 percent increase from 2019. More than 2,100 U.S. adults participated in the survey, which has a margin error of 2 percent.

The survey found that 22 percent of Black and African Americans were shown to be more likely to donate to charities, with the same statistic being reported for Hispanics. Eleven percent of Asian Americans and 9 percent of whites gave a similar response. Overall, 28 percent of people of color surveyed said they would be willing to donate more if approached, compared to 16 percent of whites.

A generational divide has also been attributed to the increase in willingness to donate. Twenty-four percent of millennials said they would like to be approached more often. That's a stark difference from the 2 percent of baby boomers and people over age 77 that gave the same answer.

Sam Graddy, diversity giving officer at Jackson Laboratory, told AP that donors could see charities as problem-solvers or essential community establishments.

"I can see where trust would go up in those types of organizations," Graddy said. "They seem to be about the solution."

However, the survey also reported that 55 percent of participants do not want to frequently hear from charities. According to Leslie Lenkowsky, professor emeritus at Indiana University, "a lot of people in this report do not want their door darkened by more solicitations."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Day of Giving
Trust in civil rights and community action charities increased in 2020 after years of steady declines, a survey said. Above, Universal Studios Hollywood hosts the 16th annual Day Of Giving philanthropic event at Universal Studios Hollywood on November 10, 2021, in Universal City, California. Photo by JC Olivera/Getty Images

Elvia Castro, a manager at and one of the authors of the report, said the racial justice movement almost certainly is behind the shift in Americans' trust for organizations that they perceive as being in favor of social change.

Overall, 18 percent of people surveyed in 2020 place high trust in charities, a figure that has held steady from 17 percent to 19 percent since 2017. At the same time, fewer people say trust in charities is highly important to their giving decisions, declining from 73 percent in 2017 to 63 percent in 2020.

As for the broader finding of a persistent lack of faith in nonprofits generally, Graddy said it likely reflects societal trends of heightened suspicions of people toward their fellow Americans.

"There's just not a whole lot of trust in society," he said.

Lenkowsky, who teaches public affairs and philanthropic studies, said even though more people have relied on charities in recent years, those experiences were not necessarily positive. Long lines at food banks, for example, may have affected people's perceptions of charities, he said.

Lenkowsky also noted that trust is a difficult thing for researchers to measure, and he cited a previous survey by Independent Sector, in partnership with Edelman Data & Intelligence, that found the largest share of people fall somewhere in middle when asked about trust in nonprofits.

Other findings:

  • Fewer donors in 2020 reported giving to religious, animal welfare, veterans, education, international relief, youth development, and police and firefighter organizations, as well nonprofit hospitals than in 2019. But more gave to environmental, health, arts and cultural, and civil-rights and community-action organizations.
  • 20 percent of those surveyed responded to a mailed appeal for money, compared with 28 percent in 2017. Nine percent participated in a fundraising event, compared with 19 percent in 2017.
  • 51 percent of African Americans expressed a preference for giving to groups that help other Black people, compared with 40 percent of Hispanics who wanted to help people like themselves, 29 percent of whites, and 27 percent of Asian Americans.