Charitable giving and volunteerism are on the rise in this country, thanks largely to the generous character of religious people, according to a new Independent Sector/Gallup survey.

“The caring spirit is alive and very much growing, even [among] the so-called me generation of baby boomers,” said Brian O’Connell, president of Independent Sector, a coalition of 650 corporate, foundation, and voluntary organizations.

The report, released at a Washington, D.C., press conference last month, found that 75 percent of American households are contributing an average of $734 annually to charitable causes. That dollar figure represents a 20 percent increase (after inflation) from two years ago. Similarly, the number of Americans volunteering their time and talents to charitable endeavors is at 98 million, up 23 percent from 1987.

One of the most significant findings in the survey was that religious belief is a major factor in contributions of time and money. Over half of the respondents surveyed reported having made contributions to religious organizations. Moreover, 80 percent of those affiliated with a religious institution reported household contributions to charity, and nearly 60 percent volunteered.

Those who attended religious services weekly “were clearly the most generous givers of both time and money, compared with all other groups,” said the report. It continued, “People who attended church regularly were far more likely to give a higher percentage of their household income to charitable causes.”

In addition, survey respondents specifically identified religion as a major motivating factor. Fifty-three percent of all givers said their motive was feeling they should “help those who had less,” and 43 percent said “such behavior ...

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