Despite Economy, Americans Remain Committed to the Social Good

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Despite Economy, Americans Remain Committed to the Social Good

Second-Ever Tiller Social Action Survey
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Tiller survey: Holiday Sales down, Holiday donations up


Despite Shaky Economy, Americans Steadfast on Giving Back
  • 97% Say It’s Important to Contribute to the Greater Good; Same Level as in ’06 Survey

  • 80% Say Their Charitable Donations in ’09 Will Be Same or More than Last Year

  • Three in Five of Us Perform a “Random Act of Kindness” at Least Weekly

  • 95% Believe It’s Critical for Children to Learn the Importance of Giving Back

  • 23% Have Leaned About A Charity or Volunteer Opportunity Through Social Media

   Room for Improvement:
  • Two in Five Have Not Volunteered in 2009

  • Among Those Currently Volunteering, About Half Spend Two Hours a Week or Less

  • Most of Us Think We Should Donate, Volunteer More

Thursday, December 17, 2009 - 8:00am

CAMPAIGN: 2009 Tiller Social Action Survey

CONTENT: Press Release

(3BLMedia/theCSRfeed) New York, NY - DEC. 17, 2009 – Apparently a struggling economy and volatile stock market aren’t taking a toll on Americans’ inclination to do good works. Four out of five Americans who give to charity say they will donate as much if not more this year than in 2008, 59% of us perform a “random act of kindness” at least weekly, and 95% of Americans believe it’s critical to teach children the importance of giving back, according to the results of the second Tiller Social Action Survey, released here today by Tiller, LLC, a leading advocacy marketing consultancy.

An overwhelming percentage of those surveyed –  97% – said it’s at least somewhat important for Americans to contribute to the greater good; virtually the same level (98%) who responded that way in the original Tiller survey, conducted in 2006. Eighty percent said their 2009 charitable contributions would be at the same level or higher than last year and 90% said they would donate as much or more in 2010.

 “It’s been a challenging year for many Americans. Unemployment hit a 25-year high and the markets hit a 12-year low, but our desire to help others has never wavered,” said Tiller Founder and CEO Rob Densen.   “Our pockets may not be quite as deep as they were last year, but we’re reaching in nonetheless.” 

The 2009 Tiller Social Action Survey was designed to better understand Americans' attitudes and behaviors relative to civic and charitable activities. It was conducted via the Internet between November 27 and December 2, 2009 by the national polling firm of Mathew Greenwald & Associates.  All respondents were at least 21 years of age. The margin of error for the 1,000 interviews is +/-3.1%. The original poll was conducted in October, 2006.

Commenting on the survey, Brian Perlman, partner and SVP at Greenwald & Associates, said:  “According to the Tiller research, 29% of Americans will donate more this year than last; as recent data show, that’s three times the number that plan on spending more on holiday gifts. Everyone focuses on holiday sales; maybe holiday donations are the more telling numbers.”  

Americans Talk the Talk, But Could Walk the Charitable Walk a Little More

When it comes to volunteering and participating in charitable causes, while Americans are well-intentioned, we are frequently constrained by work and family responsibilities. 

Ninety percent of respondents (34% strongly and 56% somewhat) believe it’s more important then ever for people to volunteer, and 95% believe it’s critical to teach children the importance of giving back. But 40% of survey respondents have not volunteered in 2009, and of the 60% of respondents who have, roughly half spent two hours a week or less volunteering.

Forty-three percent of respondents expressed some disappointment in themselves for not being more involved.  Among them, lack of time and the needs of family were the leading reasons for not doing more, cited by 39% and 29% of respondents respectively.   Only 5% said they didn’t know what to do/where to start, down from 16% in the 2006 survey.

Fifty-seven percent of all respondents at least somewhat agreed with the statement, “I feel stretched so thin, I have nothing left to give.” On the other hand, 92% of Americans believe someone who really feels the need to help usually finds a way to do so. 

Still, It’s the Small Things That Count

Of course, doing social good does not always require formal efforts.

The survey evidenced the strong sense that individual actions matter. Ninety-five percent of Americans (50% strongly and 45% somewhat) believe that doing things on a regular basis to make the world a better place is just as important as participating in a formal, organized effort. Eighty-eight percent of respondents (39% strongly and 49% somewhat) agree with the statement that “a better world will be determined more by the collective actions of individuals than by political or economic events.”

Relative to the environment, when asked who is in the position to have the most positive impact on the environment, 53% of respondents cited individuals followed by communities (22%), business (17%) and government (8%).

“It was true in 2006 and it’s true today, Americans believe that social responsibility, like charity, begins at home,” Densen said. “You may not have the time to coach Little League, mentor a young person, or volunteer at a soup kitchen, but everyone has the time to make a donation, offer a seat to the elderly, or deposit a bottle in a recycling bin. The cumulative effects of millions of individual actions can be transformational.”

Asked about random acts of kindness – defined as a spontaneous act of kindness, frequently performed for someone you don’t know – just about three in five of us (59%) said they perform one at least weekly.  

Tiller, LLC is one of the nation’s leading consultancies in the creation and implementation of advocacy marketing programs for major U.S. corporations. For more information on the 2009 Tiller Social Action Survey, a checklist of 12 random acts of kindness, and contact information for volunteer opportunities, please go to the Tiller website:  

Have some fresh, creative ideas for random acts of kindness? Please send them to We will post our favorites on our website. 

Mathew Greenwald & Associates is a premier full service market research firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. 

 For More Information

Rob Densen/Jessica Malkin, Tiller, LLC

(212) 358-8515






Jessica Malkin
Tiller, LLC
Amanda Pullins
Tiller, LLC