Donors confused about ‘charity impact’

DAYTON – Almost half of adult Americans are unclear about what “charity impact” means, according to new survey research released by BBB’s, the standards-based charity evaluation group.

The Special Report: Charity Impact provides results of a survey of more than 2,100 adults in the United States (as well as a separate survey of more than 1,000 adults in Canada) and explores how individual donors perceive charity impact.

47% of survey participants indicated they are either unclear or do not know what “charity impact” means. The remaining 53% of respondents claimed they know what a charity means when talking about “impact.” When asked to consider possible definitions for the term “charity impact,” survey participants were split.

Among Gen Zers, “organizations reaching defined goals” was most popular (40%), Millennials were most likely to select “how efficient the organization was in its spending” (27%), and matures most frequently select “the quality of programs” (26%).

“While it has become a common assumption that donors want to support highly impactful organizations, survey results show that the donating public does not have a clear understanding of the term,” said H. Art Taylor, president and CEO of BBB’s “What is more, although people care about immediate results, volume of programs and the accomplishments of their own contributions, they report attributing higher importance to long-term results, depth of programs and the overall accomplishments and capacity of the organization.”

Other report highlights include:

• 31% of respondents rated charity impact as a very important aspect in their giving process, as compared to charity trust (40%) or financial ratios (28%).

• Respondents are more likely to consider long-term results to be highly important (32%) than immediate results (21%) and program quality to be highly important (38%) than program volume (32%). Among donors who report contributing more than $5,000 in 2020, 44% attribute high importance to long-term results, as compared to immediate results (25%).

• “Bang for your buck” impact statements come across as untrustworthy to some potential donors. For instance, 22% of Boomers and 27% of matures rated their trust for such language between 0 and 20 on a 100-point scale. 37% of participants who did not donate during 2020 also rated such statements as untrustworthy.

• When asked to reflect on how individual donors think about their own ability to make a difference, giving directly to individuals was most frequently rated as very helpful (27%), followed by charities (17%) and houses of worship (23%).

For a free copy of the report, go to

BBB’s urges donors to give thoughtfully by taking the time to investigate charities before making a donation and to visit to verify if a charity meets the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.