Abstract and Figures

This paper explores the impact of social capital—measured by social trust and social networks—on individual charitable giving to religious and secular organizations. Using United States data from the national sample of the 2000 Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey, we find that social trust, bridging social network, and civic engagement increase the amount of giving to both religious and secular causes. In contrast, organizational activism only affects secular giving. Volunteering activity, and human and financial capital indicators positively affect both religious and secular giving. Finally, those who are happy about their lives and those who are religious give more to religious causes, but these factors do not affect secular giving. We find evidence of important differences in the determinants of religious and secular giving, suggesting the need to distinguish these two types of charitable giving in future work.
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ORIGINAL PAPER
Social Capital, Volunteering, and Charitable Giving
Lili Wang Æ Elizabeth Graddy
Published online: 20 March 2008
International Society for Third Sector Research and The Johns Hopkins University 2008
Abstract This paper explores the impact of social capital—measured by social trust
and social networks—on individual charitable giving to religious and secular orga-
nizations. Using United States data from the national sample of the 2000 Social Capital
Community Benchmark Survey, we find that social trust, bridging social network, and
civic engagement increase the amount of giving to both religious and secular causes. In
contrast, organizational activism only affects secular giving. Volunteering activity,
and human and financial capital indicators positively affect both religious and secular
giving. Finally, those who are happy about their lives and those who are religious give
more to religious causes, but these factors do not affect secular giving. We find
evidence of important differences in the determinants of religious and secular giving,
suggesting the need to distinguish these two types of charitable giving in future work.
Re
´
sume
´
Cet article examine l’impact du capital social - e
´
value
´
en fonction du
trust social et des re
´
seaux sociaux - sur l’octroi charitable de personnes offrant leur
soutien aux organisations religieuses et laı
¨
ques. En utilisant les donne
´
es disponibles
aux E
´
tats-Unis sur le sondage national, re
´
sultant de l’enque
ˆ
te de banc d’essai de la
communaute
´
du capital social, nous constatons que le trust social, les re
´
seaux
sociaux, et l’engagement civique accroı
ˆ
t le montant des dons aux causes religieuses
et laı
¨
ques. Par opposition, l’activisme organisationnel ne profite qu’aux dons laı
¨
-
ques. L’activite
´
du volontariat et les indicateurs du capital humain et financier
affectent positivement a
`
la fois les dons religieux et laı
¨
ques. En fin de compte, tous
L. Wang (&)
Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions, Brown University,
Providence, RI 02912, USA
e-mail: Lili_Wang@brown.edu
E. Graddy
School of Policy, Planning, and Development, University of Southern California,
Los Angeles, CA, USA
e-mail: graddy@usc.edu
123
Voluntas (2008) 19:23–42
DOI 10.1007/s11266-008-9055-y
ceux et toutes celles qui sont heureux dans leur vie et tous ceux et toutes celles qui
sont religieux offrent davantage au causes religieuses, mais ces facteurs n’affectent
pas les dons aux causes laı
¨
ques. Nous avons la preuve de diffe
´
rences importantes
qui de
´
terminent les dons religieux et laı
¨
ques, ce qui permet de sugge
´
rer le besoin de
distinguer deux types de contributions dans recherche a
`
l’avenir.
Zusammenfassung Dieser Beitrag untersucht die Auswirkung von sozialem
Kapital - gemessen an sozialem Vertrauen und sozialen Netzwerken - auf die in-
dividuelle Bereitschaft zu wohlta
¨
tigen Spenden an religio
¨
se und nicht kirchliche
Organisationen. Unter Bezugnahme auf U.S.-amerikanische Daten aus der lande-
sweiten Stichprobe im Rahmen einer in 2000 von Bu
¨
rgerstiftungen durchgefu
¨
hrten
Umfrage zum Sozialkapital (2000 Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey)
stellen wir fest, dass soziales Vertrauen, die U
¨
berbru
¨
ckung des sozialen Netzwerks
und Bu
¨
rgerengagement die Spendenbereitschaft fu
¨
r religio
¨
se und nicht kirchliche
Zwecke erho
¨
hen. Dagegen wirkt sich organisatorisches Engagement lediglich auf
nicht kirchliche Spendenbereitschaft aus. Ehrenamtliche Ta
¨
tigkeiten sowie Human-
und Finanzkapitalindikatoren wirken sich sowohl auf religio
¨
se als auch nicht kir-
chliche Spenden positiv aus. Und letztlich spenden glu
¨
ckliche und religio
¨
se
Menschen mehr fu
¨
r religio
¨
se Zwecke, wa
¨
hrend diese Faktoren bei Spenden fu
¨
r nicht
kirchliche Zwecke keine Rolle spielen. Wir sehen Anhaltspunkte fu
¨
r wesentliche
Unterschiede zwischen den Bestimmungsaktoren religio
¨
se und nicht kirchliche
Spenden, was auf eine notwendige Unterscheidung dieser beiden Spendenarten bei
zuku
¨
nftigen Untersuchungen hinweist.
Resumen Este trabajo analiza la influencia del capital social,
¯
medido por trusts y
redes sociales¯ en las donaciones de caridad que hacen las personas a organizaciones
religiosas y seculares. Utilizando datos sobre Estados Unidos tomados de una muestra
nacional de la encuesta de referencia comunitaria de capital social 2000 (Social
Capital Community Benchmark Survey), hemos descubierto que el trust social, la red
social y el compromiso
´
vico incrementan la cantidad de donaciones a obras tanto
religiosas como seculares. En contraste, el activismo de las organizaciones solo afecta
a las donaciones seculares. Las actividades de voluntariado y los indicadores humanos
y de capital social tienen un efecto positivo tanto en las donaciones religiosas como
seculares. Por u
´
ltimo, aquellos que esta
´
n contentos con sus vidas y las personas
creyentes dan ma
´
s a las causas religiosas, factores e
´
stos que no afectan a las donaci-
ones seculares. Hemos hallado pruebas de la existencia de importantes diferencias en
los factores que determinan las donaciones seculares, lo que apunta a la necesidad de
distinguir entre estos dos tipos de donaciones para futuros trabajos.
Keywords Social capital Volunteering Religious giving Secular giving
United States
Introduction
Charitable giving is a part of civic life in American society. According to Giving
USA 2006, from 70 to 80 percent of Americans contribute annually to at least one
24 Voluntas (2008) 19:23–42
123
charity, and the amount of individual charitable giving in the United States reached
nearly $190 billion in 2004 (American Association of Fundraising Counsel 2005).
In the past 10 years, the United States has witnessed a dramatic growth in the
number of charitable organizations—about 904,000 501(c)(3) public charities are
listed in the Internal Revenue Service’s official roster in 2006, a 70 percent increase
from 1996 (National Center for Charitable Statistics 2007). This growth in
charitable organizations coupled with the economic downturn at the beginning of
the twenty-first century has raised concerns about intense fundraising competition
among charities. In addition, governments around the globe increasingly acknowl-
edge the important role of civil society in dealing with social needs, such as health,
poverty, and the impact of global disaster. The level of giving is one indicator of the
strength of civil society. In many counties, individual donation is a main source of
funding for voluntary and community organizations and therefore the level of
individual giving affects the contributions these organizations can make to society
(Charities Aid Foundation 2006). In this context, understanding the factors that
promote an individual’s willingness to give is critical to the growth and the financial
strength of charitable organizations worldwide.
Literature Review
Due to the dominance of the rational choice view of human nature, which portrays
human beings as self-interested, individual charitable behavior remains a puzzle to
many social scientists. Contributing to the public good is not a rational choice
because the donor cannot directly consume the benefits, and one additional
contribution does not make a noticeable difference for the collective outcome
(Bekkers 2004). Forty years ago, Olson (1965) pointed out the discrepancy between
the rational choice view of human beings and observed unselfish behavior. This
problem is now known as the ‘collective good problem’ or the ‘participation
paradox.’ Individual charitable behavior has subsequently been of interest to
scholars in the fields of economics, sociology, and psychology, and they have used
different lenses to explain the behavior.
Influenced by rational choice theory, economists often explain charitable
behavior based on the benefits people receive through donating, such as tax
incentives and the effect of ‘warm glow’ (Andreoni 1990; Brown and Landford
1992; Clotfelter 1985, 1997; Reece and Zieschang 1985). They draw an analogue
between the consumption of certain goods and charitable giving. When the price of
a donation falls (i.e., when the marginal tax rate falls), people choose to donate
more. In addition, charitable behavior is not considered as purely altruistic. People
donate because they enjoy the pleasure that derives from the act of making a gift.
This economic explanation of charitable behavior, however, has flaws. First, the tax
incentive argument fails to explain why donors who do not itemize their tax returns,
and thus do not enjoy tax benefits, still choose to donate. Second, the economic
model of charitable behavior pays little attention to the role of friendship,
propinquity, and social networks in charitable giving (Clotfelter 1997). In other
words, the purely economic explanation of charitable behavior overlooks the social
Voluntas (2008) 19:23–42 25
123
construction of individual values. The expected benefits an individual enjoys
through charitable donations are affected by his or her social networks, prior
experiences, and organizational involvement, as well as other social and psycho-
logical factors.
In contrast to the economic perspective, the psychological explanation of
charitable behavior links it to individual personalities and the perception of
nonprofit organizations. The decision to contribute to collective goods is viewed as
the result of pro-social or altruistic personality characteristics (i.e., agreeableness,
extraversion, and emotional stability), the perceived efficacy of contributions, and
feelings of empathy (Bekkers 2004; Schervish 1997). To explain individual
philanthropic behavior, psychologists often use experimental methods. The
environments of the experiments are carefully controlled so that scholars can focus
on one or a few key factors that might affect charitable behavior. The experimental
basis of these findings of psychological impacts on pro-social behavior, however,
may limit their generalizabilitiy.
Another significant contribution to our understanding of charitable behavior
comes from the sociological perspective, which emphasizes the importance of the
social environment, norms, and social networks in promoting charity. Exposure to
requests to donate, an individual’s organizational involvement, and community size
are factors shown to be associated with the decision to contribute (Schervish and
Havens 1997). The findings associated with the impacts of those factors on
charitable behavior, however, are not consistent. For example, Schervish and
Havens (1997) found that informal helping behavior and participation in organi-
zations that serve as channels for giving and volunteering, especially religious
organizations, are strongly related to giving behavior, but general levels of social
participation are not. O’Neill and Silverman (2002), however, found that, for
Californians, religious affiliation makes no difference in either the rate or level of
giving, especially to secular agencies.
In view of the different theoretical explanations of charitable behavior and the
discrepancies in the empirical results on charitable giving, further studies on this
subject and a synthetic view of an individual’s decision to donate are necessary.
Recent developments in the concept of social capital provide a new opportunity for
us to examine the impact of social forces on charitable giving behavior.
Social capital refers to the ‘networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate
coordination and cooperation for mutual benefits’ (Putnam 1995, p. 67). Like its
counterparts of financial and human capital, social capital has been increasingly
applied as an analytical tool to explain variances in the performance of individuals
and organizations (Oztas 2004). Empirical studies have demonstrated that social
capital enhances the chances of individuals getting better jobs (Lin 2001), promotes
economic development (Fukuyama 1995; Putnam 1993), helps government reform
efforts (Putnam et al. 1993), improves school performance (Helliwell and Putnam
1999) and improves perceived health (Kawachi et al. 1999a). Halpern (2005) has
further shown that the impact of social capital on economic performance, health and
well-being, crime, education, and government effectiveness are evident at the
individual, community, and national levels across the globe.
26 Voluntas (2008) 19:23–42
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Only a handful of studies, however, have examined the relationship between
social capital and individual philanthropic behavior—the voluntary contribution of
time and/or money to collective goods. In addition, these studies have different
interpretations of how social capital, volunteering and giving are related. For
example, Narayan and Cassidy (2001) used volunteering and/or giving as one of the
indices to measure social capital. However, Putnam argued: ‘Doing good for other
people is not part of the definition of social capital’ (Putnam 2000, p. 117), and
therefore we should separate philanthropic behavior from social capital. Goss
(1999) treated volunteering as a function of several types of social capital and found
that most increase volunteering. Brown and Ferris (2007) found that individuals’
associational networks and their trust in others and in their community were
important determinants of giving and volunteering. Brooks (2005) argued that
testing the impact of social capital on volunteering may really be ‘measuring the
associations between various types of social capital.’ Therefore, to establish a link
between social capital and charity, he focused only on monetary contributions and
found that different social capital types—measured in terms of civic group
involvement, social and racial trust, and political engagement—have differing levels
of impact on giving. Schervish and Havens (1997) found that people who
volunteered to one or more philanthropic organizations and who participated in
religious organizations gave more of their household income.
With a view to these discrepancies, we re-examine here the relationship among
social capital, volunteering, and giving. We adopt the view that social capital is
distinct from individual charitable behavior (Brooks 2005; Brown and Ferris 2007;
Goss 1999; Putnam 2000) and posit that both social capital and volunteering
behavior promote charitable giving, controlling for individual demographics, human
and financial capital, religiosity and psychological inclination to give.
Moreover, we consider two separate but related aspects of giving—religious and
secular giving. Previous research on charitable giving has demonstrated some
differences in the determinants of religious and secular giving, including the effects
of education, marital status, citizenship, and race (Brooks 2005; Brown and Ferris
2007). The findings, however, have not been consistent. In this paper, we use the
same set of predictors for both secular and religious giving, and test whether the
determinants have different impacts on secular and religious giving.
We begin by developing a theoretical model of charitable giving (to both secular
and religious organizations), which incorporate social capital indices and volun-
teering activity. Then, we estimate the model using data from the 2000 Social
Capital Community Benchmark Survey. We conclude with a discussion of our
findings and their implications.
The Determinants of Charitable Giving
Past research on charitable behavior generally finds that financial resources, human
resources, religiosity, psychological inclinations, and demographics affect one’s
decision to donate and the amount to donate (Clotfelter 1997; Hodgkinson and
Weitzman 1996; Mesch et al. 2006; Schervish 1997; Wolpert 1997). In this study,
Voluntas (2008) 19:23–42 27
123
we add two dimensions to the model—individual social capital and volunteering—
and posit that individual charitable giving is an outcome of the combined forces of
social capital, volunteering, psychological propensity, human and financial capital,
and demographic characteristics.
Our implicit model is that one needs both the inclination and the capacity to give.
Inclination is determined by one’s connection to charitable organizations (measured
by social capital and volunteering), and one’s psychological propensity to give (as
measured by religiosity and happiness). Capacity is captured primarily by human
and financial capital variables. We also include a set of demographic characteristics,
which may affect either the inclination or the capacity to give, as control variables.
These are not the focus of this paper, and so their role is not developed in detail.
Each set of expected determinants is discussed in detail below.
Social Capital
Social capital is a multifaceted concept. Indeed the literature reveals a variety of
definitions, with different scholars sometimes using ‘social capital’ to mean
different things. Nevertheless, the concept is generally regarded as including aspects
of social networks and/or social trust. Here, we use social capital to refer to both an
individual’s social networks of friends, families, and organizations, and his or her
social trust of others and authority. More specifically, we consider five social capital
indices: four indices of networks—bridging social networks, informal social
networks, civic engagement, and organized group activism, and one index of social
trust. These are discussed in turn.
Social Networks
Overall, social networks are expected to have a positive impact on charitable giving.
As Putnam argued in Bowling Alone, ‘‘social networks provide the channels through
which we recruit one another for good deeds, and social networks foster norms of
reciprocity that encourage attention to others’ welfare’’ (Putnam 2000, p. 117). With
our four indices of social network, we address whether the different kinds of social
networks—bonding versus bridging, formal versus informal, membership versus
participation—have similar impacts on both religious and secular charitable giving.
Social networks generally include bonding and bridging networks (Putnam
2000). The former refers to networks among homogenous groups of people, while
the latter refers to networks among heterogeneous groups. Bridging social networks
represent the extent and diversity of social relations in which people engage.
Individuals who have friends from different social backgrounds are expected to be
more open and respectful of others. They are thus more likely to support a variety of
charitable causes or issues that might affect their diverse social networks. Therefore,
we expect that individuals with more bridging social networks will donate more.
Informal social networks refer to interactions among family, friends, and others.
These types of interaction foster a sense of reciprocity and caring among people,
which are deemed to be virtues that lead to philanthropy (Martin 1994). Therefore,
we expect that individuals with more informal social networks will donate more.
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Civic engagement refers to formal group involvement. Normally, individuals
become involved in formal groups because they believe in the mission or causes of
the group. Membership in organizations can involve people in a wide variety of
giving (Radley and Kennedy 1995). Through group involvement, individuals build a
sense of connection. This ‘sense of being connected with another or categorizing
another as a member of one’s own group,’ is a main determinant of helping
(Jackson et al. 1995, p. 74) because the combination of personal beliefs and
associational ties brings the needs of others into one’s purview (Schervish 1997).
Indeed, the 1996 Giving and Volunteering survey found that group involvement
were highly correlated with the likelihood that a household makes a charitable
contribution (Hodgkinson and Weitzman 1996). Therefore, we expect that
individuals involved in more groups will donate more.
Organized group activism refers to the extent of civic participation. Being a
member of an organization is different from actually attending local community
events, club meetings, and public meetings. If being a member shows the breadth of
an individual’s social network, actual participation in organized group activities
indicates the depth of the network. Face-to-face interaction with others strengthens
social networks and connections. Connections promote charitable giving, and thus
we expect that individuals who participate more frequently in organized group
activities will donate more.
Social Trust
Giving is a matter of trust. Studies show that individual charitable decisions and the
amount of contribution are highly influenced by the individual’s level of trust in
institutions and in other people, which is also called general social trust. In his study
of charitable giving in The Netherlands, Bekkers (2003) found that general social
trust increased the amount people gave to charitable causes. He argued that the
general social trust determines to an important extent the level of trust in the
philanthropic sector in a given society. Therefore, we expect that individuals with
higher levels of social trust will donate more.
The two aspects of social capital are expected to affect charitable behavior
differently. In general, individual charitable behavior is affected by both exposure to
giving opportunities and the willingness to give. Different types of social networks
increase one’s chances of being asked to donate, enhance one’s sense of
connectedness to certain organizations, foster reciprocity, and therefore increase
charitable giving. Social trust, on the other hand, affects the psychological aspect of
giving. It is particularly important in explaining the charitable behavior of those
who are not well connected to others or involved in organizations. Therefore, we
explore the impact of these two social capital dimensions separately.
Volunteering
Several studies have shown that volunteering behavior is a reliable predictor of
charitable giving. The Independent Sector’s series of studies on giving and
volunteering in the United States showed a clear trend of more giving by volunteers
Voluntas (2008) 19:23–42 29
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than non-volunteers (1999). In the six national surveys on giving and volunteering,
contributing households with a volunteer gave more than twice the percentage of
household income than the households that contributed but did not volunteer. This
relationship held even in periods of uncertain economic condition as in 1991 and
1993. Schervish (1997) examined whether the number of hours and the number of
different organizations people volunteered in had any impact on their charitable
giving. He found that the number of hours volunteered significantly increased the
amount of giving. Brooks (2005) also found that volunteering for various types of
organizations increased people’s charitable giving.
Volunteer work may promote charitable giving in two ways. First, volunteers
tend to have pro-social personalities (e.g., empathy, caring) that make them more
likely to make monetary contributions to public goods. Second, volunteering
increases the awareness of public needs, helps people establish networks and
relationships with charitable organizations, strengthens beliefs in the organizations’
missions, and enhances their understanding of the significance of the charitable
work. Pro-social characteristics and increased exposure and interaction with
charitable organizations should foster charitable giving. Therefore, we expect
individuals who volunteer more to give more.
Happiness
An individual’s decision to donate may be affected by his or her psychological
perspective. Studies show that an agreeable, extraverted, emotionally stable
individual is more likely to give (Bekkers 2004). In this study, we use the
individual’s self-rated happiness as an indicator of psychological inclination to
donate. Compared to those who are unhappy about their lives, those who are
generally happy are more emotionally capable to help others. In addition, happy
people normally have an optimistic personality, which resonates with other
characteristics that foster charitable giving behavior.
Religiosity
Religiosity has proven to be a significant contributor to charitable giving in American
society (Hodgkinson and Weitzman 1996; Schervish 1997). Religion provides a
cognitive framework that fosters caring and benevolent behavior. The impact of
religiosity on religious donations is explicit. But, what impact if any should religiosity
have on secular giving? Some studies have shown that people with religious beliefs
tend to be generous and have greater concern for disadvantaged groups (Brown and
Ferris 2007). Therefore, we hypothesize that people with more religiosity will
contribute more to both secular and religious causes.
Human and Financial Capital
The human and financial capital of individuals reflects their capacity to give. Human
capital, measured as educational attainment, is expected to increase charitable
giving. Education moves people upwards in a social hierarchy, expanding a person’s
30 Voluntas (2008) 19:23–42
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information sources, fostering civic awareness and empathy to those who need help,
and making people more willing to undertake actions for the public good (Brown
and Ferris 2007). Previous studies have consistently found that education has a
positive impact on giving, even after controlling for income (Andreoni et al. 2003;
Brown and Ferris 2007; Reece and Zieschang 1985). Therefore, we expect
individuals with higher education levels will give more.
We consider two measures of financial capital—income and homeownership.
Annual household income determines the discretionary financial resources available
for charitable donations. Of course the amount of discretionary resources is
subjective as there is considerable diversity in one family’s necessity versus another
family’s luxury (Schervish 1997). Nevertheless, we assume that families with higher
annual incomes will find it easier to spend money for charitable purposes compared
to those with less income. Therefore, we expect individuals with higher annual
household incomes to donate more.
1
Homeownership represents a stable and healthy financial status, and thus
homeowners may be in a better financial position than renters, and thus have greater
capacity for charitable giving. Moreover, homeowners may be more connected to
their communities which may also increase their propensity to donate—at least to
local causes. A national survey conducted by the Independent Sector in 2001 found
that homeowners in the Western region of the United States gave 174 percent more
than non-homeowners within the region (Independent Sector 2004). Therefore, we
expect that homeowners are more likely to donate.
Demographics
Finally, we include demographic characteristics that have been found to influence
charitable behavior as control variables. Age, gender, race/ethnicity, citizenship,
marital status, number of children, and the length of residence in the community
(Brown and Ferris 2007; Schervish 1997) have been found to affect the decision to
make a donation and the amount donated.
Age is expected to positively affect both the capacity and inclination to give.
Older people may have more assets, as well as more experience and exposure to
philanthropy. Most large donations come as bequests or after donors have retired.
Most studies have found that gender affects charitable behavior. Although some
studies in experimental economics found no significant gender difference in
benevolent behavior (Bolton and Katok 1995), empirical studies using survey data
have found that women are more likely to donate than men (Andreoni et al. 2003).
Moreover, there are significant gender differences in attitudes and beliefs about
caring and empathy (Andreoni and Vesterlund 2001; Hoffman 1977). Studies on
race/ethnicity differences in charitable giving have consistently shown that being
white is positively associated with the likelihood to donate or to donate higher
amounts compared to other minority groups. The 1998 Giving and Volunteering
1
Since we are concerned here with the absolute capacity to give, we consider the relationship between
charitable giving and the level of income. There are data that suggest that those with lower levels of
income may give a higher percentage of their income than those with higher levels, so we are not
suggesting that the poor are less generous—only that they have less capacity.
Voluntas (2008) 19:23–42 31
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Survey conducted by the Independent Sector revealed that African Americans and
Hispanics have lower rates of household giving and gave less amounts compared to
whites. Brown and Ferris (2007) also found that compared to whites, Hispanics
donate significantly less to religious purposes, and both African Americans and
Hispanics donate less to secular purposes. Citizenship enhances the sense of
belonging and connectedness in a country and therefore is expected to increase the
likelihood and amount of charitable giving. Literature on immigrant charitable
giving shows that recent immigrants—those who migrated in the past 10 years to
the United States—have a significantly lower likelihood of giving compared to
those who have been in the United States for more than 30 years and who most
likely already have gained citizenship (Osili and Du 2005). Marital status has been
found to have a positive impact; married persons are more likely to give and to give
more than single persons (Mesch et al. 2006). The impact of the number of children
on charitable giving is likely to be negative. More children in a family increase
financial constraints, reducing the capacity for giving. Nevertheless, children
increase social network activities, so the net impact on giving may be small. Finally,
length of residence in a community reflects social connections and the sense of
belonging in the community. So, those who have lived longer in the community may
contribute more. In summary, our model of the determinants of charitable giving is
presented in Fig. 1.
Data and Methodology
To test the above hypotheses, we use data derived from the national sample of the
2000 Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey (SCCB). The survey, averaging
26 min, was the largest scientific investigation of social capital and civic
engagement ever conducted in the United States. It was conducted nationally by
telephone using random-digit-dialing during July to November 2000. Roughly 260
variables were generated from the questionnaire.
2
The sample included a total of
3,003 interviewees. After missing values are excluded, 1,946 respondents are
included in the analysis.
Dependent Variables
The dependent variables are religious giving and secular giving. Respondents were
asked the total dollar amount the household contributed to church or religious
causes and non-religious causes in the past 12 months. The charitable giving data
were originally coded categorically. We estimated the amount of charitable giving
based on the category’s midpoint. On average, the respondents gave $1,141 to
religious causes and $566 to secular causes in 1999.
2
Additional details on the survey are available at http://www.cfsv.org/communitysurvey.
32 Voluntas (2008) 19:23–42
123
Independent Variables
Social Capital
The five social capital variables discussed earlier are measured as indices (details in
Appendix). The social trust index is the mean of the standardized responses (based
on national norms) to six questions: whether the respondents thought most people
could be trusted, and how much they trust neighbors, co-workers, fellow
congregants, store employees where they shop, and local police. The bridging
social network index is a count of the different kinds of personal friends the
respondent has from the 11 types provided. On average, the respondents have six
different kinds of personal friends. The informal social network index is the mean of
the standardized responses to five questions: the number of times the respondent
played cards with others, visited relatives, invited friends home, socialized with
co-workers outside of work, and spent time with friends in public places during the
past 12 months. Civic engagement is a count of the different types of formal groups
in which the respondent is involved from the 18 types provided. On average, the
respondents were involved in three different kinds of formal groups. Organized
group activism is the mean of the standardized responses to three questions: the
Demographics:
Age (+)
Female
Citizenship (+)
Married (+)
Children (-)
Residence (+)
Volunteering
Times Volunteered (+)
Social Capital:
Social Trust (+)
Bridging Social Network (+)
Civic Engagement (+)
Informal Social Network (+)
Organized Group Activism(+)
Charitable Giving
Religious
Secular
Human and Financial Capital:
Education (+)
Income (+)
Homeownership (+)
Religiosity
Importance of Religion (+)
Happiness
State of Happiness (+)
Fig. 1 Model of the determinants of charitable giving
Voluntas (2008) 19:23–42 33
123
number of times the respondent attended community events, club meetings, and
public meetings during the past 12 months.
Volunteering
Volunteering activity, denoted times volunteered, is measured as how frequently
people volunteered during the past 12 months. On average, the respondents
volunteered six times.
Happiness
The variable ‘happiness’ is the respondent’s answer to the question: ‘All things
considered, would you say you are very happy, happy, not very happy, or not happy
at all?’ ‘Not happy at all’ is coded as zero, and ‘very happy’ is coded as three. It
is considered an ordinal-scale variable in the analysis. Most respondents (55%) are
happy about their lives, one-third of the respondents are very happy, and only a few
are not happy at all.
Religiosity
Religiosity is measured as whether the respondents agree with the statement that
religion is important in their lives.
3
About 83% of respondents either strongly agree
or agree with the statement.
Human and Financial Capital
Educational attainment, denoted education, is measured in three levels: high school
or less, some college, and 4-year college and above. The educational attainment is
evenly distributed among the samples (37% with high school and less education,
31% with some college, and 31% with 4-year college and above degrees). We used
the high school and less category as the base category. Two education dummy
variables—some college and 4-year college and above—are included in the model.
To make the measurement of education level more meaningful, the study only
focuses on respondents of age 25 and older. Annual household income in 1999,
denoted income, is also measured in three levels: $30,000 and below, $30,000 to
$75,000, and $75,000 and above. About 32% of the respondents are low income,
46% middle income, and 21% high income. The low-income category is used as the
base category, and two dummy variables—middle income ($30,000 to $75,000) and
high income ($75,000 and above)—are included in the analysis. Homeownership is
3
There are numerous ways to measure religiosity (Hill and Hood 1999). A commonly used indicator is
how often people attend religious services, and attendance is likely to be associated with more religious
giving as some religious organizations solicit donations during the religious services. Attendance is not,
however, likely to be as useful a measure for the connection between religious belief and secular giving.
We want to explore whether a general religious belief influences charitable behavior overall (the belief–
behavior relationship). Thus, we use the importance religious belief has in one’s life as the measurement
of religiosity.
34 Voluntas (2008) 19:23–42
123
a dummy variable denoting whether the respondent owned or rented their home.
Seventy-two percent owned their home.
Demographics
More than half of the respondents are female (60%), married (54%), and citizens
(72%). On average, the respondents included in the analysis are 48 years old, and
have one child 17 years old or younger in the household. The length of residence,
denoted residence, is a variable with five categories—less than one year, one to five
years, six to ten years, 11–20 years, and more than 20 years. Most of the
respondents have lived in the community for either more than 20 years (36%) or
from one to five years (24%).
Table 1 provides the descriptive variables for all the variables. Given the
controversy noted earlier about the conceptual distinctiveness of social capital and
volunteering, we examined the correlation of these variables in our data set and
found a significant, but weak association. Thus we are able to empirically
differentiate these concepts in our data. We also examined correlations among all
the independent variables, and no significant multicollinearity was found.
Estimation Methodology
We estimate our model as a Tobit regression. Donated dollars are left-censored at
zero, so ordinary least squares (OLS) regression, which assumes a symmetrical
distribution of the dependent variable, may yield biased parameter estimates. The
Tobit regression method corrects for the censored dependent variable (Tobin 1958).
The analysis is conducted using SAS 9.0 software. To ensure that the results of the
analysis are generalizable to the overall U.S. population, the analysis is weighted to
generate a nationally representative sample based on age, gender, education, and
race/ethnicity.
Estimation Results
Table 2 presents the results of the Tobit regression on religious giving and secular
giving. The results provide strong support for our model, and reveal that social
capital, volunteering, happiness, religiosity, human and financial capital, and
demographics all play important roles in determining charitable giving.
Social capital has a positive impact on both religious and secular giving. It,
however, affects the two types of charitable giving in slightly different ways. As
expected, social trust, bridging social networks, and civic engagement (or formal
group involvement) increase the amount of charitable giving to both religious and
secular causes. Associational membership and diversity of social networks increase
personal and organizational connections, and presumably this exposure increases
both one’s knowledge of the causes and the likelihood that one will be asked to
donate. Social trust presumably facilitates the willingness to contribute to collective
goods—whether provided by secular or religious organizations.
Voluntas (2008) 19:23–42 35
123
In addition, a fourth social capital measure, organizational activism, is found to
increase the amount of secular giving. Attending community events, club meetings,
and public meetings presumably raises awareness of secular issues and therefore
increases the propensity to give. Secular group involvement, however, was not
found to increase religious giving in this sample. The fifth measure of social capital,
informal networks, had no significant impact on either type of charitable giving.
The results also support a relationship between volunteering and giving.
Individuals who volunteer more often donate more to both religious and secular
organizations. This finding is consistent with previous general findings about giving
Table 1 Descriptive statistics (sample N=1,946)
Variable Mean (s.d.)/Frequency Max. Min.
Dependent variables
Religious Giving $1,141
a
(1,853) 0 7,500
Secular Giving $ 566
b
(1,312) 0 7,500
Independent variables
Social capital
Social trust 0 (0.7) -2.5 1.0
Bridging network 6.1 (2.7) 0 11
Informal network -0.1 (0.65) -0.9 2.2
Civic engagement 3.2 (2.8) 0 18
Activism 0 (0.7) -0.5 5.7
Times volunteered 6 (2.5) 1 9
Happiness—Current state of happiness Not at all 1%; Not very 5%; Happy 55%; Very Happy
38%*
Religiosity—Importance of religion in life Strongly disagree: 8%; Somewhat disagree: 8%; Neutral:
1%; Somewhat agree: 20%; Strongly agree: 63%
Human and financial capital
Education High school and below: 37%; Some college 31%;
College and above: 31%*
Income Low: 32%; Middle 46%; High 21%*
Homeownership 72% 0 1
Demographics
Age 47.5 (15.3) 25 92
Gender Female: 60%; Male 40%
Citizenship Citizen: 94%; Non-citizen: 6%
Marital status Married: 57%; Other: 43%
Kids 0.9 (1.3) 0 13
Race/Ethnicity Asian: 1.5%; Black: 16%; Hispanic: 14%; Other 3%;
White: 65.5%.
Residence Less than 1 year: 6%; 1–5 years: 24%; 6–10 years: 16%;
11–20 years: 18%; More than 20 years: 36%
a
The median of religious giving is $300
b
The median of secular giving is $50
* Due to rounding error, the categories do not add up to 100%
36 Voluntas (2008) 19:23–42
123
(Hodgkinson and Weitzman 1996; Schervish 1997). Earlier studies, however, did
not distinguish between secular and religious giving, so this work advances our
understanding of this relationship.
A feeling of happiness was found to affect religious giving, but not secular
giving. This is an interesting finding. We had expected a positive psychological
perspective to increase the inclination to donate generally. Individuals may be more
inclined to link personal happiness with religious causes, rather than secular ones. It
is also possible that religious giving gives people a sense of happiness, which makes
the relationship between charitable giving and happiness reciprocal. Because the
data used for this research is cross-sectional, we cannot control for this potential
reciprocity.
Not surprisingly, those who think religion is important in their lives donate more
to religious causes. In addition, we find that religiosity does not have a significant
Table 2 Tobit regression on religious and secular giving
Variable Religious giving parameter estimates Secular giving parameter estimates
Social capital
Social trust 204.85** 102.71*
Bridging network 35.45* 33.47**
Civic engagement 111.28**** 112.24****
Informal network -40.30 -4.29
Activism -74.47 183.03***
Times volunteered 19.90**** 7.01***
Happiness 186.02** 46.91
Religiosity 858.88**** -17.57
Human and financial capital
Some college 433.08*** 160.73*
College 667.99**** 466.13****
Middle income 342.25*** 304.43***
High income 1,209.46**** 1,049.76****
Homeownership 272.83** 150.17
Demographics
Age 7.40* 9.76***
Female -359.18*** -126.76*
Citizenship -225.57 -119.40
Married 304.80*** 103.03
Kids 94.95** -31.69
Asian 264.90 -446.20*
Black 253.39 -204.99*
Hispanic -347.14* -427.66***
Other 88.99 -239.20
Residence 94.55** -56.82*
Log likelihood -12,706.75 -11,683.45
* P\0.10; ** P\0.05; *** P\0.01; **** P\0.0001
Voluntas (2008) 19:23–42 37
123
impact on secular giving. The latter finding is interesting because the empirical
literature has been unclear on this relationship. Hodgkinson and Weitzman (1996)
found that religious involvement and regular attendance of religious services
increased the level of giving to religion and to other charities. In contrast, Brooks
(2005) found that respondents who attended worship services weekly or more often
give more to religious purposes, but less to secular purpose. Our findings are
consistent with Brooks and do not show an impact of religiosity on secular giving.
Those who think religion is not important to their lives are just as likely to donate to
secular causes as those who think religion is important.
The capacity to give, as expected, was found to be important. Human and
financial capital indicators significantly increased both religious and secular giving.
Those with some college and those with at least a college level of education give
more to both religious and secular organizations than those with high-school or
lower education. Similarly, middle and high income individuals give more than low
income respondents to both religious and secular causes. Homeownership has a
differential impact. It positively impacts religious giving, but does not affect secular
giving. Thus, homeowners are not significantly different from renters in secular
charitable giving, after controlling for other determinants.
In terms of demographics, age, gender, race/ethnicity, and the years lived in a
community significantly affect religious and secular giving. Older people
contribute more than younger people, and women contribute significantly less
than men to both religious and secular causes. Minorities donate less to
charitable organizations than whites, but there is variability by ethnic group.
Hispanics contribute less than whites to both religious and secular organizations;
Asians and Blacks differ from whites only in their secular giving.
4
The results
also show that those who have lived in a community longer tend to donate more
to religious causes, but less to secular ones, than those who have lived in the
community for a shorter time. This may suggest that those who have lived in a
community for more than 10 years develop stronger ties to local religious
organizations than secular ones. Finally, those who are married and those who
have more children contribute more to religious causes, but they are not
significantly different in secular giving from those who are unmarried persons
and those without children.
Conclusion
In an era of growing competition for charitable dollars, understanding individual
giving behavior is critical to capacity building and the growth/fundraising effort of
charitable organizations, especially small organizations. By connecting religious
4
These results, however, should not be interpreted as minorities are less generous. Studies show that
minorities often give informally to their extended family (in the United States and in their country of
origin), neighbors, friends, and fellow migrants from the same region (Smith et al. 1999). Moreover, they
usually describe their philanthropic activities as ‘sharing’ and helping’ rather than ‘giving’ or
‘volunteering.’ Therefore, national surveys tend to underestimate the giving of minority groups.
38 Voluntas (2008) 19:23–42
123
and secular giving to an individual’s level of social trust, social networks,
volunteering behavior, happiness, religiosity, human and financial capital, and
demographic characteristics, this study draws a new diagram of the personal and
social forces that affect charitable giving.
The findings provide strong support for our main hypothesis that social capital
fosters charitable giving. Individuals who trust others more give more to religious
and secular causes. Individuals with a greater diversity of social networks and
broader civic engagement give more to both religious and secular organizations.
Finally, individuals actively involved in more formal groups donate more to secular
causes. These results underscore the importance of trust, connections to other
individuals, and connections to organizations in determining charitable behavior.
Interestingly, the results indicate that the role of social capital is quite similar for
both religious and secular giving. Only active participation in civic affairs
distinguishes the relationship. The results thus provide evidence of a strong and
consistent relationship between the different aspects of social capital and charitable
giving. This study, however, does not establish a causal relationship. Indeed, there
may be some cross-causality involved. Those who contribute more may then
strengthen their connections to other types of people and organizations. Future
research that can access time-series or panel data will be needed to confirm the
direction of the relationship. Nevertheless, there are good theoretical reasons to
believe the causality is as modeled here.
Another interesting and important finding is the observed differences in the
determinants of religious and secular giving. Happiness, religiosity, homeowner-
ship, marital status, and number of children affect religious giving, but not for
secular giving. Moreover, length of residency increases religious giving but
decreases secular giving. These considerable differences in the determinants of
these two types of charitable giving reveal that different forces are at play in shaping
charitable giving toward religious and secular causes. This suggests that future
surveys and empirical studies of charitable giving should analyze the two types of
giving behavior separately whenever possible. It also suggests that faith-based
nonprofit organizations and secular nonprofit organizations may want to develop
different fundraising strategies.
In addition, as expected, people who volunteer more also donate more. This
suggests that to attract more donations, charitable organizations—both religious and
secular nonprofit organizations—may want to provide volunteering and participa-
tion opportunities that build a sense of connection to the organization. Promoting
bonding and bridging networks with volunteers should enhance their trust and
appreciation of the organizations’ mission, which should yield more monetary
contributions.
Finally, these results are based on a national sample of United States residents.
Given the strong cultural aspect of philanthropic behavior, it is unlikely that these
findings can be generalized to other countries. They may however be suggestive for
efforts to understand the role of social connections on individual charitable behavior
more generally.
Voluntas (2008) 19:23–42 39
123
Appendix
The Definition and Measurement of Social Capital Indices and Volunteering.
No. Variable Definition Measurement
1 Social trust General interpersonal trust; trust
of neighbors, co-workers,
fellow congregants, store
employees where you shop,
local police
Calculated as the mean of the
standardized responses to the 6
questions; at least 3 answers had
to be provided for a score to be
calculated
2 Bridging social
network
How many different kinds of
personal friends the respondent
has from 11 possible types:
owns their own business,
manual worker, been on
welfare, has a vacation home,
very religious, white, Latino,
Asian, black, gay/lesbian,
community leader
Count of how many different kinds
of personal friends the
respondent has
3 Informal Social
Network
How many times in the past
12 months have you played
cards or games with others,
visited relatives or had them
visit you, had friends over to
your home, socialized with
coworkers outside of work, or
hung out with friends in public
places?
Calculated as the mean of the
standardized responses to the 5
questions, based on national
survey norms. At least 2 answers
had to be provided for a score to
be calculated
4 Civic engagement Involvement in any of the
following 18 groups: any
religious org., sports club,
youth organization, PTA,
veteran’s group, neighborhood
org., senior citizens’ club,
charity org., labor union,
professional association,
fraternal org., civil rights org.,
political action group, arts
group, hobby club, self-help
program for specific illnesses,
group meeting over the
Internet, other kinds of clubs
Count of different groups in
which the respondent is involved
5 Organized group
activism
How many times have you
attended community events,
club meetings, public meetings
that discuss town or school
affairs, in the past 12 months?
Calculated as the mean of the
standardized scores of the 3
questions, based on national
norms
6 Times volunteered How many times in the past
12 months have you
volunteered?
The range is from 1 to 9
40 Voluntas (2008) 19:23–42
123
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Journal of Democracy 6.1 (1995) 65-78 As featured on National Public Radio, The New York Times, and in other major media, we offer this sold-out, much-discussed Journal of Democracy article by Robert Putnam, "Bowling Alone." You can also find information at DemocracyNet about the Journal of Democracy and its sponsor, the National Endowment for Democracy. Many students of the new democracies that have emerged over the past decade and a half have emphasized the importance of a strong and active civil society to the consolidation of democracy. Especially with regard to the postcommunist countries, scholars and democratic activists alike have lamented the absence or obliteration of traditions of independent civic engagement and a widespread tendency toward passive reliance on the state. To those concerned with the weakness of civil societies in the developing or postcommunist world, the advanced Western democracies and above all the United States have typically been taken as models to be emulated. There is striking evidence, however, that the vibrancy of American civil society has notably declined over the past several decades. Ever since the publication of Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, the United States has played a central role in systematic studies of the links between democracy and civil society. Although this is in part because trends in American life are often regarded as harbingers of social modernization, it is also because America has traditionally been considered unusually "civic" (a reputation that, as we shall later see, has not been entirely unjustified). When Tocqueville visited the United States in the 1830s, it was the Americans' propensity for civic association that most impressed him as the key to their unprecedented ability to make democracy work. "Americans of all ages, all stations in life, and all types of disposition," he observed, "are forever forming associations. There are not only commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but others of a thousand different types -- religious, moral, serious, futile, very general and very limited, immensely large and very minute. . . . Nothing, in my view, deserves more attention than the intellectual and moral associations in America." Recently, American social scientists of a neo-Tocquevillean bent have unearthed a wide range of empirical evidence that the quality of public life and the performance of social institutions (and not only in America) are indeed powerfully influenced by norms and networks of civic engagement. Researchers in such fields as education, urban poverty, unemployment, the control of crime and drug abuse, and even health have discovered that successful outcomes are more likely in civically engaged communities. Similarly, research on the varying economic attainments of different ethnic groups in the United States has demonstrated the importance of social bonds within each group. These results are consistent with research in a wide range of settings that demonstrates the vital importance of social networks for job placement and many other economic outcomes. Meanwhile, a seemingly unrelated body of research on the sociology of economic development has also focused attention on the role of social networks. Some of this work is situated in the developing countries, and some of it elucidates the peculiarly successful "network capitalism" of East Asia. Even in less exotic Western economies, however, researchers have discovered highly efficient, highly flexible "industrial districts" based on networks of collaboration among workers and small entrepreneurs. Far from being paleoindustrial anachronisms, these dense interpersonal and interorganizational networks undergird ultramodern industries, from the high tech of Silicon Valley to the high fashion of Benetton. The norms and networks of civic engagement also powerfully affect the performance of representative government. That, at least, was the central conclusion of my own 20-year, quasi-experimental study of subnational governments in different regions of Italy. Although all these regional governments seemed identical on paper, their levels of effectiveness varied dramatically. Systematic inquiry showed that the quality of governance was determined by longstanding traditions of civic engagement (or its absence). Voter turnout, newspaper readership, membership in choral societies and football clubs -- these were the hallmarks of a successful region. In fact, historical analysis suggested that these networks of organized reciprocity and civic solidarity...
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