Though it may come as a surprise to the folks in charge of collecting the Yom Kippur pledges, religious people are the most charitable donors in the country.
A new study by Independent Sector and the National Council of Churches shows a direct relationship between being religiously inclined and being a generous philanthropist.
About 60 percent of American households donate to churches, synagogues and mosques, and over 85 percent of them also support secular organizations, like healthcare and cultural institutions, providing them with more than three-quarters of their philanthropic support.
Overall, religion-giving households donate 88 percent of all charitable contributions made, according to the report "Faith & Philanthropy," issued last week.
The study "confirms what we have anecdotally known all along, that there is an enormous connection between people who are generous in their own religious circles, that makes them care about other causes as well," said Patricia Nash, Independent Sector’s director of communications.
The research was conducted by telephone last year, and involved asking 4,216 adults about their household giving during 2000. It did not analyze giving patterns among different religions.
Religious households donated nearly four times as much overall ($2,247) as did those that identified as secular, which gave an average of $623.
It also found that people who gave to both religious and secular causes gave more to religion than those who gave solely to religion.
And it found that the vast majority of funding dollars (81 percent) that support secular organizations like health and human services agencies, and arts groups, come from people who also give to religious causes.
"Religious leaders should not be afraid to invite members to volunteer for, and have partnerships with other causes," said Nash. "Secular non-profits should also not be afraid to engage organizations of all faiths, and to reach out to those who are connected to religious groups.
"This is not a fixed pie [of funds] here. We have the potential to expand what we’re doing, both in the congregation and outside it."