In the midst of hard times, Americans are volunteering more and giving more to charity compared with last year and with the rest of the world. According to an annual poll conducted by the international Charities Aid Foundation, with results announced Monday, the people of the United States ranked as the most generous in the world in terms of time and money in 2011, up from fifth place in 2010.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans said they had donated money to charity, more than 40% volunteered their time, and close to three-fourths said they had helped a stranger. The country improved in all three measurements over the past year.
For a country this well off — and yes, in comparable terms, it still is — the number of Americans dipping into their wallets is still a little on the low side. The most generous with their money are the people of Thailand, where 85% said they had donated to charity. In the United Kingdom, 79% of people gave money, but the British — and the rest of the world — are about half as likely to do volunteer work as Americans.
The poll didn't measure how much people donated, only whether they did. But according to another poll released Monday, this one by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Americans are indeed growing more generous. More than half of the U.S. charities surveyed said they were receiving more money than last year; a fifth of them expected donations to be up 20% or more. That happy turn of events was dampened, though, by the news that the demand for aid was rising faster than donations.