Charity: time's-a-wastin

Saturday, Sept. 26
Posted 9 a.m. EDT

It seems that charities are not just losing money -- they're losing volunteer time. The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that a study by the National Conference on Citizenship indicates 72 percent of Americans have cut back on the time they spend volunteering.

The report was based on surveys conducted in May of nearly 4,000 people. Of the respondents, 66 percent said that the recession has caused them to be more concerned with looking out for themselves. That's understandable behavior, but no less comforting to those charities who especially seek to provide aid during times of crisis.

But the news isn't all bad. Half the respondents said they gave food or money to a needy person, and 43 percent helped relatives. David B. Smith, executive director of the National Conference on Citizenship, says the shift in focus during the recession has been toward providing help on a more intimate level.

The study also found that those earning less than $50,000 per year were less likely to volunteer than those earning more -- 29 percent versus 51 percent. What would spur more people to volunteer? According to the survey, 24 percent said tax breaks and paid time off would do it.

Now that the recession seems to be over, perhaps people will become more generous with time and money again. Anecdotally, many directors of nonprofits say they have enough volunteers -- or even more than enough -- due to the tough job market. Job-hunters are often encouraged to volunteer to keep their skills up to date, but then are gone when the job market picks up. It's a delicate balance between money and time, to be sure, but right now it seems charity needs a commitment to a sustained donation of both.

There are many ways to leave a legacy.

Watch a video on how to check out a charity before you give.

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