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Confidence Gap Hurts Local Charities, According To UC Irvine's 1996 Orange County Annual Survey
Many of Those Who Give Nothing to Charity Are Never Asked, Survey Shows
Irvine, Calif., December 3, 1996
Orange County residents might be more generous with their money if they had more confidence in local charities, according to UC Irvine's 1996 Orange County Annual Survey.
This year's survey included some new questions on charity to help explain why residents give less than might be expected in such an affluent county.
Only one in five residents has a great deal of confidence that local charities spend the money they receive wisely or can produce results. And fewer than half of residents in all income groups say they are very often asked to give to local charities. Yet, those who have more confidence and those who recall being asked are more likely to give, the survey shows.
The random-sample telephone survey of 1,000 adult residents was conducted by Mark Baldassare, professor and chair of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning in the UCI School of Social Ecology, and research associate Cheryl Katz. The survey period was Aug. 30-Sept. 8, and the margin of error is plus or minus 3 percent.
Katz said this year's survey gives charities information that could help them develop more effective strategies for attracting donors. "The fact that fewer than half of the households with incomes over $80,000 a year are asked for donations very often indicates that charities could do a much better job of reaching the population of Orange County," she said.
The survey shows that residents are likely to respond to appeals for support.
Three in four residents who were very often or sometimes asked to give donated at least $100, compared to only about half of those who were seldom or never asked. Thirty-six percent of residents who say they are never asked for donations gave nothing.
The survey also shows that residents' skepticism about Orange County charities may be keeping donations down. Only 18 percent have a great deal of confidence that local charities spend money wisely, and only 19 percent are highly confident that local charities can produce results.
Those who do have confidence in local charities are more likely to make donations. Of those who have a great deal of confidence, 37 percent gave more than $500, and of those with some confidence, 32 percent made large donations. Among residents with little or no confidence in the way local charities spend money, only 24 percent gave more than $500.
"We have a confidence gap, and until people feel more trust than they do today, they're not going to feel comfortable enough to write checks to local charities," Baldassare said.
Some types of charities have more work to do than others. Hospitals and medical causes, and programs to help the needy, experienced a 10-point drop in the number expressing "very favorable" support since this question was last asked in 1987.
Nonetheless, of the four types of charities mentioned in the survey, programs to help the needy remained the most popular, with 37 percent saying they were "very favorable" toward giving to this type of cause. Churches and religious groups were next with 32 percent, followed by hospitals and medical causes (25 percent) and museums and performing arts groups (18 percent).
Overall, giving increased in Orange County during the past year. The median contribution to charity was $253, up from $177 last year but within the range seen in the last decade.
"There's been little change over the past 10 years in the amount people give, yet we know the need for charity has increased," Baldassare said. "Poverty in the county has increased sharply since the 1980 census, and welfare reform is going to make it necessary for local areas to step up their efforts to help people in need.
"Until charities in Orange County do a better job of distinguishing themselves as organizations that can and do make a difference, we're going to have a problem."
The 1996 Orange County Annual Survey is the 15th conducted by Baldassare, who currently is a visiting scholar at the Public Policy Institute of California, where he is writing a book about the Orange County bankruptcy.
Beginning Dec. 3, complete results of the 1996 Orange County Annual Survey will be available online.
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