A Study of Charitable Giving in Oak Park & River Forest

Purpose of the research

To gain insight into the awareness, interest and perceptions of various community organizations in the Oak Park River Forest area and the events which it sponsors.

To understand what motivates the community to donate, join, participate and engage with non-profit organizations, specifically seeking to understand why people choose to give to organizations outside of the community as well as giving locally.


Online survey

Conducted a 15-20 minute online survey

Fielded February/March, 2015

Community Members

687 community members provided key data points to analyze

Based on demographic information they provided a statistically significant sample

Oak park – river forest population

*live in Oak Park (22,670 HH)

Median HH Income $78,800

Median age 39 years

*live in River Forest (3,961 HH)

Median HH Income $113,300

Median age 41 years

Residents of Oak Park (N=539, 78%)

Residents of River Forest (N=148, 22%)

We weighted on demographics to ensure our sample reflected the actual population



20-39 40%
40-49 20%
50-54 11%
55-64 16%
65+ 13%


White 68%
Black 14%
Other 18%


less than $75000 47%
$75000-$99999 12%
$100000-$149999 16%
$150000+ 26%

Key Takeaways

Community takeaways

  • Oak Park River Forest is a very giving community, 100% of our sample gave in some way
  • Residents say they would like to donate even more, if they had more time/money
  • Residents want to know more about organizations, particularly their needs and impact
  • Sometimes all it takes is to ask
  • Residents would rather give time locally than non-locally
  • Residents would rather give to Kids-orientated organizations locally
  • The community sees itself as less of a priority for giving, but would happily give to local organizations if they understood the efforts were non-local
  • Residents want to see proof that organizations are efficient and well-run


Oak park river forest is a very giving community

Donated time
Donated money

2x U.S. average

The mean donation is $5,986 in Oak Park River Forest compared to the national average of $2,974

1.4x chicago

Residents give an average of 4.3% of their income compared to the Chicago average of 3.1%

Oak Park and River Forest residents give more at every donation level

When it comes to time, Oak Park and River Forest residents are much more giving

OPRF residents


Regardless of zip code, most everyone donates money

Giving is commonplace in every neighborhood

But how much they give varies

Donations in River Forest are larger than those in Oak Park

Residents of all income levels give
Lower income levels tend to give a larger proportion of their income

% of Income Donated

Income level and total donation

All age groups are giving, but donation amounts increase with age

Volunteering time peaks in the 40s and early 50s

Penetration of Money and Time by Age

Donation size increases with age

Median Annual Total Donations and  Percent of Income Donated by Age

How much stays in our community?

Oak Park River Forest donates outside and within the community with a fairly even split

Oak park – river forest population

In OPRF, the same amount stays in the community as is donated outside the community

Oak Park River Forest

While money is split evenly, time is volunteered more locally

Local Giving

Non-Local Giving

Residents of all ages give locally and non-locally

% Who donated by age

At around age 55, people start giving a much larger share locally

Even though fewer people ages 50-54 are donating – those who do, giving more than younger cohorts.

Median Annual Contributions by Age

Where we choose to give

Animal welfare

such as animal rights, wildlife conservations

Basic Needs

such as reducing hunger, homelessness, and unemployment


such as environmental protection and conservation

Human Services

such as daycare, foster care, elderly care, family counseling, and consumer protection

Youth development

after-school programs, mentoring, and self-enhancement


which include organizations that have the abilities to provide support to different types of nonprofit organizations


such as elementary schools, secondary or higher education, and libraries


such as churches, synagogues, convents, seminaries, and mosques


such as development and relief services, and international peace

Arts, Culture, & Humanities

such as performing arts, museums, public radio, and cultural groups

Health, Medical, & Science

such as hospitals, mental health organizations, nursing homes, hospices, clinics, societies, and medical research

Public or social benefit

such as civil rights, minority and women’s equity issues, and women’s equity issues, and social action

Compared to Chicago and the U.S., Oak Park River Forest prioritizes monetary donations towards Education

% Who give $ to causes

Across all categories, residents give more money than time

% of People Who Donate $ and Time

Where we choose to give local vs. non local

Locally, Education and Religion receive the most donations

% of Residents Who Gave Locally

Chart Guide

% of Residents Who Gave Locally

Comparing local to non-local giving, organizations that benefit children and animals attract more local giving

While giving to Health and Foundations, much more goes outside of the community

How much we give locally

The number of people who give is not always in line with how much they give

Breakouts of monetary amounts differ across causes as well

A quarter of yearly donations to Religion were $2,500 or more,
Next in line were Health, Human Services, and Foundations

Donation Sizes

Why We Give Locally vs. Non-Locally

Residents’ attitudes reflect their giving nature

And they do not prefer big, national organizations over local ones

Half or more strongly agree with the following statements

  • "Bigger, well-known charities tend to be run better and more efficiently than smaller, local charities."
  • "I prefer to support large, nationally-run organizations over locally-run community organizations."
  • "People should take responsibility of their own lives and economic well-being, and not expect other people to help."

Half or more strongly disagree with the following statements

  • "Bigger, well-known charities tend to be run better and more efficiently than smaller, local charities."
  • "I prefer to support large, nationally-run organizations over locally-run community organizations."
  • "People should take responsibility of their own lives and economic well-being, and not expect other people to help."

Those who donate money locally are more passionate about causes

Attitudes about giving (% Top 3 Box)

When they do give non-locally, 4 reasons rise to the top: ties to where they used to live, no one has asked, taxes are too high and other communities need it more

Percent Agreement

Among those who donate more non-locally than they do locally, belief in greater need outside the community is the top barrier – followed by no one asking

Percent Agreement

Why We Give 

Motivations to giving

We asked people why they choose to give to organizations, across a series of 25 statements. If a respondent gave both locally and non-locally, we randomly chose one local organization and one non-local cause to ask about.

Their answers revealed 7 primary motivations to giving

I donate to or am involved with this organization/cause because…

I could Participate & Interact

  • I could put my talents to use
  • I had the opportunity to participate in a variety of ways
  • I got the opportunity to meet people
  • I could interact directly with those who needed help
  • I could see the results of my involvement firsthand
  • It allowed me to be a role model for others
  • It broadened my experiences and perspective on life

There was a Personal Benefit to Me

  • It gave me stature in the community
  • It provided me with the opportunity to network
  • Escape my own issues

I could Be Social

  • I got to go to fun events
  • They made it enjoyable to give my time or money
  • I got to spend time with friends and family that also participated

I was Asked

  • I was asked to give or participate by the organization
  • I was asked to give or participate by someone I know

It allowed me to Feel Good About Self

  • It made me feel good about myself
  • It made me feel less selfish
  • I was in the spirit of giving
  • I felt as if I was repaying others for all they had done for me or those I love

I could Connect to Something Bigger

  • It made me feel like I’m part of a community
  • It connected me to an organization that is well-known and well-regarded

I could Make an Impact

  • It fulfilled my desire to make a positive impact on society
  • It connected me to a cause that’s near and dear to my heart
  • It allowed me to provide relief in times of need

That align themselves around 2 dimensions

We factor analyzed the 25 individual motive statements and uncovered 7 motivational factors that align themselves around two key dimensions.

Motives for Giving

Looking through the lens of Motives for Giving also reveals key insights to local vs. non-local giving as well as time vs. money

Generally speaking, the motives in the upper hemisphere drive time while those in the lower drive money

But there are exceptions when it comes to local vs. non-local

Allowing people to put their talents to use is a large motivator for giving time locally and non-locally

The social aspect also drives time, but at a local level

Being asked by the organization drives giving money (local and non-local), whereas being asked by a friend drives time locally, money non-local

Feeling connected to something bigger motivates giving both time and money, local and non-local

Feeling connected to a cause drives volunteering time locally, but donating money non-locally

Giving money to non-local organizations is a way people feel good about themselves

Having the opportunity to network is a driver for volunteering time
Few admit having stature in the community motivates them

What Would Get Us to Give More (in our words)

As a local resident, I would give more if…

If I was asked

Simple, clearly written appeals

If an organization’s principles aligned with my own

I’m a big animal welfare advocate…”

If I knew what impact my donation would make

The magnitude of the impact that my donation of time, talent and/or treasure can make. I want to make an impact and I want to see the needle moved.”

If I knew the needs of the organization

Specific tasks that need to be done”

If I was asked

Simple, clearly written appeals

If I was confident the organization was well-managed and efficiently used their resources

“Family friendly opportunities to do with children”

If local organizations were more consolidated or coordinated

“I’d like to see more coordinated efforts between local organizations to reduce inefficiency and create more cohesive support services coverage.”

Additional Information on Survey Respondents

Most took the survey on a computer and in response to emails and flyers

Device used to take survey

Computer 78%
Mobile 16%
Tablet 6%

How found out about survey

About half work full-time, three fourths have Bachelor’s degrees and a third work in Chicago

Employment type

I work full time
I work part time
I do not work

Education Level

Masters degree 40%
College graduate 26%
Doctorate law professional degree 19%
Some postgraduate 10%
Some college 5%
High school Graduate 0%

Where they work

In OPRF outside of home 37%
Chicago 34%
At home in OPRF 19%
Other suburb 15%
Other 4%

Three quarters of respondents live in Oak Park, the other quarter in River Forest

Roughly one quarter have another residence outside of the community

OP vs. RF

*% Oak Park
*% River Forest

Is OPRF your primary residence?

Said Yes

Have another residence outside OPRF?

Said Yes

Respondents read their mail, use social media, and read the local newspaper

The Live and Give Study was brought to you by the helpful voices of Oak Park and River Forest and…

The Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation focuses its efforts in strengthening the community through philanthropy. They are leaders in legacy grant making, endowment fund management, and training assistance to nonprofits.

In conjunction with the above, the study creation, recruitment, analysis, and presentation brought to you by Halverson Group. Located in the heart of Oak Park, The Halverson Group are experts in human behavior. They deliver innovative, actionable solutions that work in the real world and help their partners understand the marketplace.

The Live & Give Project Team

    • Lisa Gillis, Marketing Committee Chair, Oak Park and River Forest Infant Welfare Society (IWS)
    • Mindy Cultra, Halverson Group
    • Ron Halverson, Halverson Group
    • Barbara Stoldt, Marketing Committee, IWS
    • Elizabeth Lippitt, IWS Children’s Clinic
    • Lynne Williams, Board President, IWS
    • Katie O’Brien, IWS Children’s Clinic
    • Henry Kranz, Osk Park-River Forest Community Foundation
    • Kristin Carlson Vogen, Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation