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Who gives to charity?

By Judy Martel · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Posted: 10 am ET

Ever wonder how the different generations donate to charity? A study published in The Chronicle of Philanthropy found that the oldest Americans give the most -- not necessarily surprising, since they have typically accumulated more assets.

In the survey, 77 percent of those born in 1945 or earlier give to charity, and their average amount in the past 12 months was $1,066. At the other end of the generational spectrum, 54 percent of Gen Y -- those born between 1981 and 1991 -- gave an average of $341 in the past 12 months. The rest of the generations stack up like this: 52 percent of Gen Xers (born between 1965 and 1980) contributed an average of $727 in the past 12 months and 45.17 percent of baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) donated an average of $901.

In a peek at the future of philanthropy, the oldest Americans hardly participate at all in online charity efforts, with the percentage steadily increasing toward the younger population. For instance, 29 percent of those in Gen Y share articles and photos of charities on Facebook and 21 percent follow charities on Twitter. Compare that to 2 percent of those born in 1945 and earlier who use Facebook and 1 percent who follow Twitter.

In February, The Chronicle reported that 13 percent of Americans made text-message gifts to Haiti relief efforts, suggesting a turning point in use of that method of donation. Last fall, a Chronicle survey found that only 6 percent of Americans had contributed to charity via text messages during the previous year.

And charities are responding to the online buzz. As I reported in this earlier post, a new Web site is tracking relief efforts in Haiti so donors can follow along even if they can't be there to witness the progress in person.

Since the Chronicle survey of generational giving reported that 31 percent of Gen Y plan to donate more to charity in the coming year, while only 8 percent of those born in 1945 or earlier plan to do so, the focus on online efforts can only pay off.

Bankrate's 2010 Tax Guide: Gifts to charity pay off on your taxes.

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

Read about the nuts and bolts of charitable trusts.

Questions? Comments? E-mail jmartel@bankrate.com

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