For Charitable Donations, 2017 May Have Been America’s Best Year Yet

2017 might be remembered as a rough year for many people, but it also will be remembered as one of the most generous years as well.

Americans gave a record $410.8 billion  in 2017 to charities across the country which was the first time that number had ever gone past the $400 billion mark according to Giving USA. And although a good chunk of the money comes from foundations per usual, according to  their annual report on philanthropy, more and more individuals are donating money to causes. They estimated that in 2017 almost 70 percent of charitable giving was done by individuals. 

70 percent of charitable donations made in 2017 were made by individuals.

“I think people are just more giving because it’s been a rough year,” says Marie Laurent of Logan Square who is a frequent donor to The  Northern Illinois Food Bank. “I donate now when I can. I mean, I’m done with college, I have a good job so why not give a little?”

Giving Tuesday has become one of the most popular days of the year for giving to charities. Designated to the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, this unofficial holiday was launched in 2012 as a way to combat the excessive spending of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And the number of donations on that day are slowly rising.

The rise in donations for Americans could be linked to the rise in the economy but there has also been a steady push on social media to raise awareness of the act of giving. The hashtag #MyGivingStory is now also used on social media that day to encourage those who donate to share not only where they give but why. According to the Giving Tuesday Data Project, the top five issues discussed were public and societal benefit, human services, education, health, and environment and animals.

Although only about 18 percent of consumers know about Giving Tuesday, search trends on Google show that the awareness is increasing with each year.  Awareness of this new holiday continues to increase and in 2017 a whopping $300 million in donations was given on that day with average gift size of about $120. Researchers estimate revenue for Giving Tuesday in 2018 (which was November 28th this year) will be close to $363 million.

Google Trends showing the increase in searches of “giving Tuesday” from 2012 to 2018.

However, people’s generosity is no longer limited to just monetary donations. More and more people are taking their frustrations with the current political climate in the country and finding a useful outlet. Laurent, who also volunteers to mentor a few hours once a week, says that this past year has driven her to be more generous with her time.

“We’ve all kind of felt pretty frustrated,” she said. “So I guess giving back makes us feel like we’re doing something about it.”

As of last year, 77.4 million Americans volunteered and gave a total of 6.9 billion hours. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 7.6 percent of women spent at least 2 hours volunteering in the last year and 4.6 percent of men volunteer as well.

Breaking down where Americans are choosing to volunteer.

In the U.S, Minneapolis-St. Paul leads the cities ranking with 46.3 percent of their population reporting that they volunteer in some way. And for the States, Utah has the most volunteers with 51 percent of its population volunteering.

Midtown Educational Foundation, a Chicago non profit, relies on their volunteers as well as donations to keep their programs running. At their Metro Achievement Center for Girls in Greektown, volunteers can spend two hours once a week helping inner-city girls from ages 8 to 18 achieve academic and personal goals. 

“Our volunteers are really what make our programs be as effective as they are,” says Tracy Eshedagho, the Director of the 7th & 8th grade program at Metro Achievement Center.

In Illinois 2.8 million volunteers contributed 206.5 million hours of service in 2017. And a little over 24 percent of those volunteers gave their time to mentoring the youth of Illinois making it the fourth most popular way to volunteer in the State. In Chicago, 25.6 percent of Chicagoans volunteer their time in some way.

See chart here

“A lot of our volunteers mention in their entrance interview that they feel the need to give back to their community.” notes Eshedagho. “Most of them say that [volunteering] is a much better option than just sitting around watching T.V.”

Metro Achievement Center for Girls in Greektown

Lucia Bower of Noble Square, a current volunteer mentor at Metro Achievement Center, cites the growing consciousness of women’s issues and the need to support younger girls as her motivation for volunteering two hours of her week to mentoring inner city girls.

“All young girls are told that their ideas are silly and they are often dismissed,” says Bower. Volunteering at Metro Achievement Center has given her a chance to let middle school girls that she mentors know that not only are their likes and ideas not silly but that someone wants to hear them. And with all the mixed messages from the media, Bower knows that young girls need this support more than ever.

“If this helps the girls reclaim their worth,” says Bower, “Then [mentoring] the few hours of my week is worth it.”

Teen Tobacco Use Still A Threat

Although there has been a steady decline in tobacco use in the United States over the years, millions of teenagers are still using tobacco products and are main targets of tobacco companies.

The chart below shows that 19.6 percent of teenagers still use tobacco products on a regular basis. That totals to 2.95 million teenagers across the United States.

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The Center for Disease Control and prevention still label smoking as the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and in the last years, a campaign has been launched aimed specifically at ending smoking among teens.

Summer Olympics Ratings Drop For Opening Ceremony in Rio

The Summer Olympics always draws the attention of the whole world and for 16 days, we cheer on our nation’s best athletes as they go for the gold. But more popular than the games themselves is the Opening Ceremony that lights the legendary Olympic torch and features the hosting nation’s best attempt at a spectacle. In recent years, however, the ratings for the Opening Ceremony for the Summer Olympics has dropped in the United States.

The chart below shows the TV ratings of the Opening Ceremony of the Summer Olympics every year since 1972. A note: The United States boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow in protest of their invasion of Afghanistan.

Screenshot 2018-10-22 at 10.51.22 AM

The highest ratings for the Opening Ceremony were when the games were hosted in the United States; 1984 in Los Angeles and 1996 in Atlanta. After the 2008 games in Beijing, China the ratings being to pick up again although they never reach the high of the Atlanta and Los Angeles games. Credit for this can go to the rise of celebrities like Michael Phelps and Simone Biles who shone in Athens and Beijing and drew more attention the games.

The ratings dropped significantly for the Rio Opening Ceremony in 2016. With a rating of 13.9, the ratings for Rio were not only down from London (21.0) but it was the lowest they had been in the 1992 games were held in Barcelona. Some of the blame for that was put on NBC’s decision to broadcast the Opening Ceremony at a later time.