Share of donor households facing hardship grows, survey finds

Share of donor households facing hardship grows, survey finds

More donor households were struggling economically six months into the COVID-19 crisis than at the beginning of the pandemic, including nearly 40 percent of millennial households, a report from Dunham+Company finds.

Based on a survey of six hundred and thirty Americans who gave at least $20 to charity in 2019, the report, Donor confidence weakened in the face of COVID-19 pandemic (5 pages, PDF), found that 24 percent of all respondents said their financial situation was "very" or "extremely" challenging, up from 22 percent in an April survey. Millennials were hardest hit, with 39 percent saying they were experiencing financial hardship in September, up from 33 percent in April, compared with 25 percent of Gen Xers, up from 20 percent, and 5 percent of boomers and older respondents, down from 9 percent.

According to the report, the share of respondents who said they would stop giving to charity until the economy is back on track ticked up to 21 percent from 20 percent, while 26 percent, down from 28 percent, said they would continue to give as before and 53 percent, unchanged from April, said they would give more carefully than before. Boomers and older respondents were more likely than in April (35 percent vs. 33 percent) and more likely than millennials (30 percent) to say they would keep giving as before; those who attend church regularly also were more likely than they were in the spring to say they would keep giving as before (44 percent vs. 40 percent) and more likely than those who never attend church (18 percent).

In terms of overall giving, the share of donor households planning to give the same as in 2019 held steady at 52 percent, while the percentage of those who planned to give less rose, to 28 percent from 25 percent in April, and the percentage of those who planned to give more fell, to 14 percent from 17 percent. In addition, the percentage of donors who cited their personal financial situation as the reason for giving less this year jumped to 66 percent from 53 percent. At the same time, the survey found that as of September, donors were more optimistic about the economy, with 51 percent expecting the economy to chug along or improve over the next twelve months, up from 40 percent in April, and 33 percent expecting it to get worse, down from 51 percent in April. 

The survey also found that 50 percent of respondents saw charitable organizations as doing a "good" or "excellent" job — down from 60 percent in April but higher than the 48 percent who said so in an August 2018 survey.

"Overall, as we head toward the end of the year, the data is indicating that while donor confidence remains firm, it has softened since the beginning of the pandemic as an increasing percentage of donor households have felt the impact of a struggling economy," the report's authors state. 

(Photo credit: GettyImages)

"Donor confidence weakened in the face of COVID-19 pandemic." Dunham+Company report 11/20/2020.