New Survey: Americans Increasingly Support Disaster Relief as Major Share of Charitable Giving, but Obstacles Suggest they Could be Even More Generous

Friday, March 1st, 2024

An online survey conducted by The Harris Poll of more than 2,000 U.S. adults on behalf of Vanguard Charitable, a leading nonprofit and sponsor of donor-advised funds (DAFs), found that nearly 3 in 5 American donors (59%) (defined as those who donated to charity in the past 12 months) gave half or more of their total monetary donations last year to charities providing disaster relief.

This marks a notable increase from the results of a similar survey conducted by The Harris Poll in April 2022 on behalf of Vanguard Charitable, which found that only 37% of American donors had given half or more of their charitable contributions to disaster relief efforts. But the new survey also suggests that donors encounter challenges when trying to respond charitably to disasters.

More than half of Americans (52%) agree that when a crisis (e.g., natural disaster, humanitarian crisis, economic crisis) occurs, they do not know where to find reputable information on how to direct a monetary donation to support those in need. Perhaps more concerning, 65% of Americans agree that when a crisis occurs, they do not generally have funds available to give right away.

"During a crisis, the desire to provide aid is so strong," said Rebecca Moffett, president of Vanguard Charitable. "And we need to do more to help individuals act on that desire, especially those who may not know which charities to support, or how to quickly access funds to donate. At Vanguard Charitable, we seek to minimize these challenges by ensuring our donors have dollars at the ready and providing them with lists of highly rated charities responding to crises. The planful approach our donors take helps to explain why they have granted more than $2 billion already in 2023, our most generous year ever."

When it comes to charitable giving in general, the survey found that Americans remain committed. Nearly 3 in 4 Americans (73%)  reported having given a monetary donation to charity in the past twelve months, on par with the 74% who reported doing so the year before (survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Vanguard Charitable in September 2022).

Strategic giving goes further

American donors with a charitable giving budget give more dollars and are more likely to support disaster relief than those who do not have a charitable giving budget. This is consistent with survey findings in 2021 and 2022.

  • Among those who donated money to charity in the past 12 months, those who included charitable giving in their annual budget gave more money, on average, than those who did not ($1,583 vs. $892).

  • Among American donors with a charitable giving budget, 74% donated to disaster relief in the past 12 months, compared to 53% of American donors without a charitable giving budget.

  • American donors with a charitable giving budget were two times more likely to say the amount of money they donated increased compared to last year than those who did not (34% vs. 17%).

  • 61% of American donors with a charitable giving budget are likely to give more money in the next 12 months to charity than they did in the past 12 months (vs. 47% of donors without a charitable budget).

Effective giving through partnership and strategic resources

With dollars committed to charity and ready access to credible, informational resources, Vanguard Charitable donors have effectively focused on disaster relief efforts across the nation and the world. Vanguard Charitable donors have issued 10,578 grants totaling $67.5 million to more than 1,300 unique nonprofits focused on disaster relief over the past year. This includes top grantee nonprofits such as Doctors Without Borders USA, World Central Kitchen, and American Civil Liberties Union Foundation.

Vanguard Charitable donors have embraced a set of unique granting tools and resources to further inform their decisions and encourage nimble giving in both the short and long term. These include:

  • MyGiving: Launched this fall, MyGiving is an interactive experience that serves as an immersive, personalized journey to help Vanguard Charitable donors develop their own charitable giving plan and giving goals.

  • Discover Charities: In partnership with Charity Navigator, Vanguard Charitable has provided dedicated lists of highly rated nonprofits focused directly on specific disasters in moments of great need. These lists, available to Vanguard Charitable donors and the public, provide donors with the peace of mind that they are supporting charities with direct ties to and impact on communities in need.

  • Grant Payments: Vanguard Charitable recently launched Grant Payments with PayPal, and charities are now able to receive electronic funds within one day of accepting a grant—and in some cases, even a matter of minutes. Since Grant Payments launched in May, Vanguard Charitable has electronically distributed more than $230 million to 8,563 eligible charities, including $11.7 million to nonprofits supporting disaster relief efforts.

  • Why Giving Matters: The inaugural study, Why Giving Matters: Donors give more effectively over time with a donor-advised fund, includes survey results of over 1,500 Vanguard Charitable donors and 440 nonprofits, along with a decade's worth of insight into donor giving behavior. It uncovers and explores how donors increase their granting the longer they've had a Vanguard Charitable donor-advised fund.

  • The Value In Giving Podcast: In its third season, The Value In Giving Podcast amplifies voices across the world of philanthropy, connecting donors to inspirational nonprofit and industry leaders. This season features leaders from an array of nonprofits including Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia, Martha's Vineyard Museum, Shelter House, San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, and GiveDirectly, along with Aramark, a food services provider using a DAF for its corporate philanthropy.

For more information about Vanguard Charitable or giving through donor-advised funds, please visit