Why do people give to charity?

Across the U.S., charitable giving continued its upward trend in 2016. Giving USA 2017 reported that an estimated $390 billion was donated to charitable organizations, a record number for the third year in a row. In addition to the money Americans give, volunteering in America equates to a net worth of approximately $200 billion.

In Lancaster County, with its rich heritage of philanthropy, we see the same upward trend locally. This past November, the Lancaster County Community Foundation’s Extraordinary Give raised $8.6 million in 24 hours! 23,734 caring individuals made 51,619 thoughtful gifts, demonstrating how generous our community can be.

With the new federal tax law, a charitable deduction on your taxes may no longer be permitted. The idea that many people give because they “need a tax break” is widely assumed to be true, but it would be incorrect to consider this as the primary motivating factor for charitable giving. We believe there are dozens of compelling reasons for people to give, tax break or no tax break. Whether it’s the measurable impact of a donation, a personal relationship with the cause or simply, a friendly ask, an innovative donation approach or an overall sense of joy from being a part of something greater than oneself.

Economics doesn’t drive the internal satisfaction one feels when helping others. Giving to others makes you feel rich. It makes you realize that even if you don’t have much, you have enough to share with others and make a positive impact on their lives. Your donation will also make you part of a larger cause. Whether you contribute to cancer research, pre-school education or disaster relief for Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, you can see how your donation, no matter how large or small, really does make a difference when combined with others.

Donating makes us feel grateful for the blessings we have in our own life. When contributing to a charity, you feel a satisfaction that only giving selflessly to others can bring.

We are a very giving America, and a very giving Lancaster County. I am so proud of the amazing people of Lancaster County and I’m fortunate to call Lancaster County home.  Imagine, we’re the first United Way in the country to move 100% into Collective Impact, working toward our Four Bold Goals of all Lancaster County children entering kindergarten ready to learn, all Lancaster County adults having a post-secondary credential, cutting the County’s poverty rate in half, and every person in Lancaster County having a medical home; the first county in America to have ended chronic homelessness due to the Homeless Coalition; we have one of the BEST Extraordinary Gives sponsored by the Community Foundation; and the Lancaster Chamber has earned a reputation for excellence among its peers throughout the nation, leading the way with a new membership model. 

Please accept my thanks to all of you for the many reasons you donate your valuable resources of money and time to improve the lives of our neighbors in Lancaster County and I look forward to continued support from the generous residents of the communities United Way of Lancaster County serves.

Sue Suter
President & CEO, United Way of Lancaster County