Ever Heard of Giving Tuesday? 87% of Americans Haven't

Year over year, Americans increasingly feel that no one should be obligated to get involved with charitable giving if they don't want to

Nov 17, 2015, 05:05 ET from The Harris Poll

NEW YORK, Nov. 17, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- The holiday season brings many things. There are family gatherings and delicious food. There's a day for giving thanks and several days for scoring deals on holiday shopping. It's also a season when many people give back to their communities. In 2012, a day was set aside for just this purpose when New York City's 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation started Giving Tuesday to create a global day of giving. It's an annual event that takes place on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. However, three years after its creation, awareness of this day remains very low among Americans, as 87% say they've never heard of it.

And while 86% say they don't need a holiday to tell them when to give, many adults may be in support of the idea of Giving Tuesday after all. After hearing about it, three quarters (75%) of Americans say this day represents what the holiday season should be about.

  • Millennials are the most open to the idea, with 83% saying it represents what the holiday season should be about. On the other hand, two thirds of Matures (66%) and 42% of all Americans say Giving Tuesday is unnecessary.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,273 U.S. adults surveyed online between August 12 and 17, 2015. Full results of the study, including data tables, can be found here.

Attitudes towards giving
When it comes to charitable giving as a general concept, Americans are increasingly likely to see this sort of engagement as an option, not a responsibility. Half (50%) of Americans believe that people can get involved with different issues and causes if they want to, but that no one should be obligated to do so (a sentiment that has steadily increased since 2007, when 40% said the same). Conversely, the attitude that people have a personal responsibility to make the world a better place by being actively involved with various issues and causes has seen a marked decrease since 2007 (21% today, down 10 points).

Prioritizing charitable causes
With a plethora of causes to choose from, which do Americans believe are the most important? When it comes to the causes Americans feel charities should focus their resources on, human rights (15%, up 6 points from 2010), youth/families (14%, down 4 points), education (13%, down 6 points), and medical research (13%, down one point) top the list. Fewer indicate disaster relief (8%), global health (4%), and animals (4%).

  • Millennials and Baby Boomers are more likely than others to say human rights are the biggest priority (20% & 16% vs. 10% Gen Xers and 6% Matures). Gen Xers, on the other hand are more likely than Millennials and Baby Boomers to say youth/families are on top (20% vs. 14% & 11%).
  • Democrats and Independents are twice as likely as Republicans to say human rights are the top priority (19% & 16% vs. 8%).

However, Americans don't personally prioritize their charitable spending along the same lines. When asking Americans which charities they personally care most about donating to, youth/families rises to the top (19%), followed by medical research (13%). And while the lowest percentage of Americans cites animals as an important cause for charities to focus on, they ranked third among the types of charities adults want to give their own donations to (12%). Human rights, the top cause Americans believe charities to focus on, drops down to fifth place with just 8% indicating it's among the charities they donate to themselves.

Corporate giving
Many companies work to foster a socially responsible reputation by giving back as well. Nearly three quarters of Americans (73%) agree that a company's reputation for social responsibility has at least some effect on them when deciding what to buy and who to do business with.

  • Millennials are more likely than any other generation to say it affects their decision (78% vs. 71% Gen Xers, 71% Baby Boomers, 65% Matures).
  • When asked whether corporations or individuals should be donating to a variety of types of causes, Americans offer some clear opinions:
  • Majorities of Americans feel companies should lead the way in donating to global health (77%), medical research (75%), environmental (74%), disaster relief (65%), and education (61%) charities.
  • On the other hand, individuals are seen as more appropriate donors when it comes to charities serving animals (76%) and youth/families (66%). Americans are nearly split on who is most appropriate to serve human rights charities (49% individual vs. 51% corporate).

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This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between July 15 and 20, 2015 among 2,273 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 sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

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

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #71, November 17, 2015
By Allyssa Birth, Senior Research Analyst, The Harris Poll

About The Harris Poll®
Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. For more information, or to see other recent polls, please visit our new website, TheHarrisPoll.com.

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SOURCE The Harris Poll