Religious charitable organizations are seen by U.S. adults as the most trustworthy and transparent philanthropic entities, according to a report published April 6 by Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

“What Americans Think About Philanthropy” presents the data from a national survey conducted in summer 2022 regarding what U.S. adults know about, and how they perceive, non-profit organizations.

Respondents were given a list of nine charitable entities and asked to indicate their level of trust in each “to generally do what is right.”

Religious charitable organizations had the highest percentage of “complete” / “very much” responses (35.6%) followed by community foundations (30.9%), secular charitable organizations (23.4%), private foundations (19.5%), crowdfunding campaigns (16.5%), donor-advised funds (16.1%), high-net-worth individual donors (13.2%), impact investing (11.8%) and corporate giving (10.4%).

“Older individuals, white/Caucasian non-Hispanic Americans, individuals who attend religious services more frequently, and donors were significantly more likely to trust religious charitable organizations compared to younger individuals, Hispanics/Latinos, individuals who attend religious services less frequently and nondonors,” the report said.

In recent decades, charitable giving by individual, working-class households has steadily declined while giving by foundations and wealthy individuals has increased.

Most U.S. adults affirm three actions as expressions of philanthropy: giving time (85.2%), giving treasure (83.8%) and giving talent (72.4%).

Younger adults (born 1981 or later) were more likely than older adults to say giving time is philanthropy: 89.6% to 82.3%, respectively. Older adults were more likely to say giving treasure (85.3% to 81.6%, respectively) and giving talent (73.6% to 70.6%, respectively) are forms of philanthropy.

Nearly all (91.8%) of respondents said “giving to not-for-profit organizations” is charitable giving, while donating to houses of faith and religious organizations is seen as philanthropy by 65.8% and giving directly to individuals in need is viewed as charitable giving by 65.3%.

Younger adults were more likely than older adults to see giving to non-profits (93.3% to 90.9%, respectively) and giving directly to individuals (69.1% to 62.8%, respectively) as charitable giving. Older adults were more likely than younger adults to see philanthropy as giving to religious entities (69.1% to 60.8%, respectively).

The full report is available here.

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