Americans Aren’t Saving Much, But They Still Donate

According to recent surveys by Google Consumer Surveys and, 62% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings, and 21% have no savings account to speak of. The data has raised some concerns among fundraisers as to the ability of people to donate to charitable causes, especially retired people. 4 out of 5 people between the ages of 30 and 54 don’t think they’ll have enough money to retire.

There are, of course, deeper problems that these numbers elude too, but it makes sense for fundraisers to be concerned about their ability to raise money for charities. Although charitable donations in 2014 totaled $360 billion, which is the highest in decades and was the fifth year in a row that donations increased, that still only amounts to about 2% of the nation’s GDP, a ratio which has stayed relatively stable for the last half a century or so. That increase is due more to a recovering economy than to a sudden spike in empathy.

For those concerned about their ability to raise funds, the relative lack of personal wealth out there might seem disheartening, but people are still donating, and willing to continue doing so. The trick to getting those donations looks to be improving communications to potential donors. People want to know what their money will go to, especially those who don’t have a lot of it, and they want to feel like their donation is going to something useful. Transparency is key here, as groups less willing, or less able, to explain how they use funds are less likely to receive them, at least form smaller donors. But not everyone can tap into lifelong donors for whom writing big checks isn’t a problem. Learning to appeal to smaller donors by being honest and working hard is the best way to overcome a fear that they can’t donate much.