Americans coping with a tumultuous economy will cut back this year on holiday gifts but be more generous in giving to charities, a new study finds.
Seven in ten adults (71 percent) said they will spend less money on holiday presents this year, according to the findings of a World Vision survey, conducted by Harris Interactive. But nearly half (49 percent) of U.S. adults responded that they are now more likely to give a charitable gift as a holiday present.
"These results underscore our altruistic American culture of giving back," commented Justin Greeves, Harris Interactive vice president of public affairs and policy research.
He tied the World Vision survey with a recent study by The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and observed that both show why total charitable giving has increased in 39 of the last 40 years – even during times of recession.
"The findings are a reflection of our uniquely American value system of helping others in need, which, in turn, makes us, as givers feel good," Greeves said. "This generosity may surprise some but shows why it truly 'Tis better to give than to receive.'"
The study also shows that more than four in five adults (84 percent) said they would prefer to be on the receiving end of a meaningful gift that would help someone rather than receive a traditional gift such as clothing or electronics this year.
Also, a majority of U.S. adults also believe they do not need anything, with only 36 percent saying they need something. A higher portion of Americans, however, said they want something for the holiday this year (57 percent).
World Vision, one of the world's largest Christian relief and development organization, is encouraged by the results of the study. The ministry hopes Americans will consider doing their holiday shopping this season through World Vision's Gift Catalog.
Using the Gift Catalog, people can make purchases to significantly improve the life of a child or family by providing tools and opportunities to overcome extreme poverty in the name of friends and family members.
"While families in the United States face decisions about where to cut back, families in other countries may be facing much harder decisions, like how to provide food for their children," said Devin Hermanson, senior director of WV's Gift Catalog.
People can purchase a goat for $75 for a needy family, for example, or help build a clean water well for a village in Africa through the Gift Catalog.
In 2007, the World Vision Gift Catalog raised $21 million and provided assistance to more than 500,000 people around the world.
But helping the needy is not just limited to those living in third world countries. The Gift Catalog also offers opportunities for U.S. adults to help fellow Americans.
Options include the American Families Assistance Fund that assists local churches, community- and faith-based organizations that help families throughout the United States by providing critical supplies such as clothing, school supplies and construction material that can help rebuild the lives of those affected by poverty and disaster.
Other U.S. gift options include the Raise Up an Urban Hero of Youth, which supports World Vision outreach workers and leaders who work with urban youths; and donating towards school supplies and necessities for American children.
A new report released by the Agricultural Department on Monday showed some 691,000 children went hungry in the United States last year – a more than 50 percent increase from the 2006 figure. And close to one in eight Americans struggled to feed themselves adequately in 2007.
The Food Research and Action Center, an anti-hunger group, expects the numbers to increase for 2008 due to the sharp economic downturn.