Nonprofits Bad Reputation

Here is a lengthy article about statistics showing that some not for profit organizations are developing a bad reputation in polls by David Clayton, PhD, Vice President, Nonprofit and Social Issues Research Group, Harris Interactive.

While a Third of Adults Think the Nonprofit Sector in the United States is Headed in the Wrong Direction, a Vast Majority of Households have Donated to Charities in the Past Year.

Non-profits Developing A Bad Reputation

One-third of U.S. adults (32%) have less than positive feelings toward America’s charitable organizations (1) and the same number (32%) thinks that the nonprofit sector in America has pretty seriously gotten off in the wrong direction, according to a survey by Harris Interactive.

While a majority of adults may have positive feelings toward nonprofits (68% give them a score of 51 or higher out of 100) and most (92%) households have contributed to a charity in the last year (up from 80% in October 2005), only one in 10 (10%) strongly agrees that charitable organizations are honest and ethical in their use of donated funds.

Almost half (48%) somewhat agrees with this sentiment, while slightly more than one- quarter (27%) somewhat or strongly disagrees that these organizations use donated funds honestly and ethically, and another 15 percent are not sure.

These are some of the results from the latest Harris Interactive DonorPulse survey, conducted quarterly, designed to track trends related to charity and philanthropy in the United States.

This latest survey was conducted online in the United States between January 11 and 17, 2006 among 2,720 adults ages 18 and older, of whom 2,523 donated money to a charitable organization in the past year, and 1,672 volunteered their time to a charitable organization in the past year. The next wave of the DonorPulse survey will field in May.

Financial contributions

Despite their ambivalence about the direction they see the sector headed in, the vast majority of Americans continue to make cash donations to individual nonprofit organizations. The survey also suggests that 2006 charitable contributions will remain steady based on people’s expectations of what they will give this year.

    * More than nine in 10 adults (92%) say they or someone in their household
      made a financial contribution to a nonprofit organization in the past
      year, up from 80 percent when last asked in October 2005.
    * About half (49%) of those who made contributions during the past year
      gave less than $500, while six percent say they donated $5,000 or more.
    * In 2005, the largest percentages of donors gave to churches and
      religious organizations (50%) and disaster relief organizations (47%),
      followed by community groups and programs (35%), human service
      organizations (34%) and organizations that serve youth and children
      (30%).
    * Of those who are considering making contributions in 2006, 68 percent
      say they expect to give about the same amount they did in 2005, while 17
      percent say they expect to give more and 16 percent say they expect to
      give less.

David Clayton, Vice President of the Nonprofit and Social Issues Research Group at Harris Interactive, comments, “This survey highlights the American public’s tremendous commitment to the principles of charity and philanthropy. It also suggests that nonprofits could communicate more to the public about the real improvements in individual lives and communities that their altruism translates into.”

Volunteer efforts

Some adults choose to do their part by donating their time. About two-thirds (64%) of those who have participated in a volunteer activity do so at least once per month with 36 percent volunteering on a daily or weekly basis.

Clayton goes on to say, “Even with some ambivalence and concern about some dimensions of the nonprofit sector, people are definitely showing their support as they invest significant amounts of discretionary time and money.”

Differences by age

Throughout the survey there are noticeable differences in attitudes toward charitable organizations and the amount of time and money donated by age. Some of these include:

    * Younger adults are more likely than older adults to have positive
      feelings toward charitable organizations. For example, 83 percent of
      those ages 30 to 39 and 88 percent of those ages 18 to 24 give
      charitable organizations a score of 51 or higher (out of 100), compared
      to only 53 percent of those ages 65 and older.
    * One-third (33%) of those ages 65 and older somewhat or strongly disagree
      with the statement that most organizations are honest and ethical in
      their use of donations, compared to only 20 percent of those ages 30 to
      39.
    * Three-quarters (75%) of those ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 29 that they or
      members of their household have made a financial contribution in the
      past year, compared to 95 percent of those ages 50 to 64 and 65 and
      older.
    * Just over half (52%) of those ages 18 to 24 and 59 percent of those ages
      25 to 29 volunteer at least monthly, compared to 64 percent of those
      ages 50 to 64 and 72 percent of those ages 65 and older.

TABLE 1
ATTITUDES TOWARD CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS-BY AGE
"Please rate your overall feelings about nonprofit organizations,
including charities, private foundations, faith-based organizations and other
philanthropic groups, from 1 to 100. '1' means you have very negative feelings
for non profit organizations and '100' means you have very positive feelings
for them?"

Base: All adults

                                                Age
                Total     18-24   25-29    30-39     40-49   50-64     65+
                  %         %       %        %         %       %        %
    1-50 (Net)   32        12      28       17        28      38       47
      1-10        6         1       6        1         6       9        9
     11-20        1         1       -        *         2       2        1
     21-30        4         -       6        2         2       4        6
     31-40        3         *       3        2         2       3        4
     41-50       18        11      14       13        17      19       26
    51-100(Net)  68        88      72       83        72      62       53
     51-60        4         2       2        7         3       5        4
     61-70        6        10       5        5         7       6        6
     71-80       26        22      34       32        32      25       19
     81-90       17        29      13       22        17      11       15
     91-100      14        25      17       16        13      15        9
    Means        68        80      70       76        69      64       60

    * Less than 0.5%.

TABLE 2
PERCEPTIONS OF HOW NONPROFIT SECTOR IN AMERICA IS DOING-BY AGE

“In general, do you think the nonprofit sector in America is on the right track or has pretty seriously gotten off in the wrong direction?”

    Base: All adults

                                                Age
                  Total     18-24   25-29    30-39     40-49   50-64     65+
                    %         %       %        %         %       %        %

    Right track    30        36      38       35        33      29       21
    Wrong
     direction     32        16      19       23        34      38       37
    Not sure       38        48      43       41        33      33       42

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

TABLE 3
USE OF DONATED FUNDS-BY AGE
"Based on what you know, please rate your agreement with the following
statement: 'Most charitable organizations are honest and ethical in their use
of donated funds.'"
Base: All adults

                                                Age
                  Total     18-24   25-29    30-39     40-49   50-64     65+
                    %         %       %        %         %       %        %

    Agree (Net)    58        60       58       70       61      55       50
    Strongly agree 10         6       11       15       11      10        6
    Somewhat agree 48        54       47       55       51      45       44
    Neither agree
     nor disagree  15        24       20       10       14      13       17
    Disagree (Net) 27        16       22       20       24      32       33
    Somewhat
     disagree      22        16       18       19       18      25      29
    Strongly
     disagree       5         *        4        1        6       7       5

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

* Less than 0.5%.

TABLE 4
FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS TO NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS

“In the past year, have you or any members of your household made a financial contribution to a nonprofit organization, including charities, schools, churches, hospitals, museums, etc.?”

 

    Base: All adults

    TREND                         Yes           No
    January 2006    %             92             8
    October 2005    %             80            20
    May 2005        %             80            20

TABLE 5
FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS TO NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS-BY AGE

“In the past year, have you or any members of your household made a financial contribution to a nonprofit organization, including charities, schools, churches, hospitals, museums, etc.?”

 

    Base: All adults

                                                Age
                  Total     18-24   25-29    30-39     40-49   50-64     65+
                    %         %       %        %         %       %        %

    Yes            92        75       75       92        93      95      95
    No              8        25       25        8         7       5       5

TABLE 6
CHARITABLE DONATION AMOUNTS-BY AGE

“Thinking about all your charitable contributions to religious organizations, churches, charities, or other nonprofit organizations, etc., approximately how much money in total did you (or any members of your household) donate to churches and other charitable or nonprofit organizations in the past year?”

    Base: Donated to nonprofit organization(s)

                                                Age
                   Total    18-24   25-29    30-39     40-49   50-64     65+
                     %        %        %        %         %       %        %

    Zero/Nothing     -        -        -        -         -       -       -
    Less than $250  33       52       54       40        31      31      23
    $250-$499       16        4       11       16        21      19      15
    $500-$999       13       11        8       17        13      12      12
    $1,000-$1999    12        5        3       10        13      12      16
    $2,000-$2,999    6        1        3        5         4       6       9
    $3,000-$3,999    4        2        -        4         2       4       6
    $4,000-$4,999    2        6        -        2         1       2       1
    $5,000-$7,499    3        *        5        1         4       3       5
    $7,500 or more   3        3        -        2         5       3       3
    Decline to
     answer          8       16       17        4         5       7      10

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.
* Less than 0.5%.

TABLE 7
VOLUNTEERING FOR CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS-BY AGE

“Taking all of your volunteer activities together, on average, how often do you volunteer?”

Base: Have participated in any volunteer activity

                                                Age
                         Total    18-24   25-29   30-39    40-49   50-64  65+
                           %        %        %      %         %       %    %
    At least monthly(Net) 64       52       59      61        64     64    72
       Daily               5        1        2       4         5      7     5
       At least weekly,
        but not daily     31       26       23      28        27     30    42
       At least monthly,
        but not weekly    28       24       35      28        32     27    25
    Less than monthly
     (Net)                36       48       41      39        36     36    28
       At least quarterly
        (every three
         months), but not
         monthly          16       20       17      20        16     16    12
       At least semi-
        annually, but
        not quarterly     10        8       11      10        13     10    10
       annually           10       21       12       9         7      9     7

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

TABLE 8
FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS TO NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS-BY AGE

“Thinking about your charitable contributions over the past year, to which type of organization(s) have you donated money? Please select all that apply.”

    Base: Donated to nonprofit organization(s)

                                                Age
                         Total    18-24    25-29   30-39   40-49  50-64  65+
                           %         %       %        %       %     %     %

    Churches or religious
     organizations        50        43       48     38       46     54    58
    Disaster relief
     organizations        47        43       42     45       48     45    51
    Community groups
     and programs         35        23       14     35       34     37    37
    Human service
     organizations        34        37       28     30       36     36    34
    Organizations that
     serve youth and
     children             30        20       14     31       35     32    27
    Educational
     organizations        24        15       10     30       27     23    23
    Other healthcare
     organizations        14         4       20     15       15     13    17
    Conservation and
     environmental
     organizations        13         9       17     13       13     12    14
    Arts and culture
     organizations        13         8       14     18       13      9    15
    Organizations that
     serve the aging
     and elderly          12         1       1       7       10     12    22
    Hospitals              7         7       2       6        6      6    11
    Other                  2         -       *       2        1      2     1
    Don't know             *         -       3       -        -      *     *
    None/Nothing           *         2       -       -        -      *     *
    Declined to
     answer/No answer      *         -       -       -        *      *     *

Note: Only responses with 1% or more included.
* Less than 0.5%.

TABLE 9
DONATION EXPECTATION FOR 2006
"Compared to 2005, how much do you expect to donate to charity in 2006?"
Base: All Adults

                                                        Total
                                                          %
    More than 2005 (Net)                                 17
      Much more than in 2005                              1
      More than in 2005                                  15
      About the same as in 2005                          67
    Less than 2005 (Net)                                 16
      Less than in 2005                                  10
      Much less than in 2005                              6

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States between January 11 and 17, 2006 among 2,720 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All surveys are subject to several sources of error. These include: sampling error (because only a sample of a population is interviewed); measurement error due to question wording and/or question order, deliberately or unintentionally inaccurate responses, nonresponse (including refusals), interviewer effects (when live interviewers are used) and weighting.

With one exception (sampling error) the magnitude of the errors that result cannot be estimated. There is, therefore, no way to calculate a finite “margin of error” for any survey and the use of these words should be avoided.

With pure probability samples, with 100 percent response rates, it is possible to calculate the probability that the sampling error (but not other sources of error) is not greater than some number. With a pure probability sample of 2,720 adults one could say with a 95 percent probability that the overall results have a sampling error of +/- 2 percentage points. Sampling error for the sub-samples of those who have donated money to a charitable organization in the past year (n=2,523) and those who have volunteered their time to a charitable organization in the past year (n=1,672) is higher and varies. However that does not take other sources of error into account. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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    (1) Respondents were asked to rate their overall feelings about nonprofit
        organizations from 1 to 100 with '1' meaning they have very negative
        feelings for non profit organizations and '100' meaning they have very
        positive feelings for them. Thirty-two percent of adults gave a score
        between 1 and 50, which translates to a less than positive rating.

The Harris Poll #33, April 27, 2006

By David Clayton, PhD, Vice President, Nonprofit and Social Issues Research Group, Harris Interactive