Non-Religious Younger Single Women Defy Conventional Giving Patterns

Contrary to conventional wisdom, younger single women without a religious affiliation give nearly two and half times as much as middle-aged and older single women who are religiously unaffiliated, a study by the Women's Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy finds.

The report, Women Give 2014 (26 pages, PDF), found that while for most of the demographic groups studied religiosity is linked to giving, single women age 44 and younger who are religiously unaffiliated give twice as much to charity as their peers who are religiously affiliated but attend services infrequently. Among other things, the report suggests that the non-standard religiosity-giving pattern among younger single women who are religiously unaffiliated can be attributed to the fact that they give twice as much to non-religiously identified organizations (NRIOs) as young single women who attend services regularly and infrequently. The report also found that younger single women who are religiously unaffiliated give twice as much to charity as their unaffiliated male peers.

"Gender and age clearly matter and have a substantial influence on giving choices," said Women's Philanthropy Institute director Debra J. Mesch. "This study shows that different patterns in charitable giving exist between young men and young women."

"Many in the nonprofit sector have expressed concern that recent declines in Americans' religious affiliation and attendance might foreshadow a decline in charitable giving to both religiously and non-religiously identified nonprofits," said Mark Ottoni-Wilhelm, lead researcher for the study and visiting Eileen Lamb O'Gara Chair in Women's Philanthropy at the Lily Family School of Philanthropy. "This study demonstrates that donors’ religiosity is not a one-size-fits-all predictor of whether, how much, and for what they give. These results underscore that nonprofits should pay attention to the religious and non-religious orientations of their donors and develop tailored strategies to connect with those who share an interest in the charitable purpose they serve."

"Young, Single Women Who Are Religiously Unaffiliated Are Generous Charitable Givers." Indiana University Lilly School of Philanthropy Press Release 11/12/2014.