The Tithe Has Turned: Young, Non-Religious Women Give More

The standard religiosity-giving story is this: the older and more religious a donor is, the more the person gives to charity. But younger women seem to be bucking that trend, according to the report Women Give 2014, produced by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and its program, the Women’s Philanthropy Institute.

Single women 44 years of age or younger that do not identify with a religious affiliation (Nones) give 40 percent more than single women under 45 who frequently attend religious services (Frequents), and 136 percent more than younger women who infrequently attend religious services (Infrequents).

This is contrary to findings for single women age 45 and older. Those who attend religious service frequently give 92 percent more than those who do not attend and 76 percent more than those who attend infrequently. Those attending services infrequently give 17 percent more than those who do not attend services.

“The religiosity-giving relationship, which has been assumed to be the same regardless of gender and age, is a more complex relationship than previously thought,” wrote the report’s authors. “In an important shift from the standard religiosity-giving story found in most previous research, young single women who are religiously unaffiliated — the “Nones” — give roughly two times larger amounts to charitable organizations than women who are affiliated but infrequently attend religious services.”

The standard religiosity-giving story, as referenced in the report, bears out among the population as a whole. Frequents of both genders and all ages give 76 percent more than Nones and 111 percent more than Infrequents, although Nones give 35 percent more than Infrequents. Middle-aged and older Frequents of both genders give 153 percent more than middle-aged Nones and 119 percent more than middle-aged Frequents, and Infrequents give 35 percent more than Nones.

Younger None men follow the standard story: Frequents give 111 percent more than Nones and 140 percent more than Infrequents, and Nones give 29 percent more than Infrequents. Younger None women give 102 percent more to charities than younger None men, and 166 percent more than older None women.

In all, younger None women give two and a half times more money than older None women; twice as much as younger Infrequent women; and, twice as much as younger None men. Younger None women also give twice as much to non-religiously identified organizations (NRIOs) than to religiously identified organizations (RIOs).

“Gender and age clearly matter and have a substantial influence on giving choices,” said Debra Mesch, Ph.D., director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, via a statement. “This study shows that different patterns in charitable giving exist between young men and young women. Nonprofit leaders and fundraisers may need to develop new strategies to engage them more effectively.”

This report is based on 2012 giving data from the National Study of American Religious Giving (NSARG) report. Women Give 2014 includes responses from 762 people to the NSARG, distributed in early 2013. These respondents were neither married nor cohabitating; 41 percent identified as Protestant, 30 percent as not identifying with any religion, 23 percent as Roman Catholic, and the remainder as “other.” Giving to congregations was not included in this study.

Of the total sample, about 34 percent were Frequents, attending service once or twice a month or more, and about 37 percent were Infrequents, attending a few times a year or less. Those identifying as None—30 percent of the total–were not asked about service attendance.