With #GivingTuesday coming up, charities are readying their year-end holiday appeals to a changing body of potential donors.

Older, married couples with strong religious ties used to be the target demographic for charities, ministries, and other nonprofits. But as this generation passes away, making way for a younger generation with weaker ties to religion, organizations worry their donor pools may be shrinking. Will nonreligious Americans (the “nones”) continue to donate?

A study released last month, just ahead of the year’s biggest giving season, examines the relationship between faith and charitable giving. For the overall population, single people who regularly attend church still out-give infrequent churchgoers (by more than double) and those who are unaffiliated (by 76%). But when researchers looked at Americans under 45, the numbers told a different story.

Women without religious affiliation are the next generation’s top givers—more generous than religious women and unaffiliated men, researchers at Indiana University’s Lily School of Philanthropy found. Their levels of giving were at least double most of the other demographics’.

The study, Women Give 2014, was the first to investigate how the conflux of gender, age, and religion affect charitable giving. Researchers measured giving to nonreligious and religious organizations, excluding congregations.

While the change in patterns is clear, the reasons behind it are a bit more nuanced, according to Debra Mesch, director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute and the director of the study. One possible explanation is that young, female nones are finding avenues and inspiration for giving through social connections ...

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