Economic hard times haven’t hardened people’s hearts. Most Americans, 81%, say they plan to give the same or more to charity this year, according to the 2012 Fidelity Charitable Giving Season Survey. That’s up nine and 18 percentage points from 2011 and 2010, respectively.

The survey showed that Americans, on average, expect to give $2,400 to charity this year, a 13% increase from $2,100 last year. Approximately four in 10 (42%) cited improved personal economic reasons for giving more, including a new job, a raise or lower household expenses.

“While there is still uncertainty about where the economy is headed, Americans are showing a willingness to give more to the causes they care about,” Sarah Libbey, president of Fidelity Charitable, said in a statement.

Family ties and tradition, not tax deductions, appear to be driving the giving, the survey found. More than four in 10 respondents (44%) said they donate to charity to set a good example for their family or community, with two-thirds (67%) describing charitable giving as a holiday tradition in their family. Many of the respondents, 71%, said they are influenced to give by a life event, such as an illness or death among family or friends. Three-quarters said charitable tax deductions do not influence their giving.

The survey also found that political donations do not cut into donations for non-political charities. For those who donated or planned to donate to political campaigns, the vast majority, 89%, said it did not negatively impact their charitable giving.

More than four in five Americans (82%) said their parents taught them to give, and 78% have taught or are teaching their children to do the same. Of those respondents who are passing on the tradition of giving, 71% cite encouraging their children to volunteer time as a way to teach philanthropy.

Fidelity Charitable, an independent public charity, is experiencing the upward trend in giving first-hand, as the year looks to be its strongest ever in incoming contributions as well as outgoing grants to charities. Through the end of September, Fidelity Charitable drew $1.2 billion in donor contributions, up 63% from the same period a year ago. Meanwhile, grants rose 16%, with $961 million given through 256,000 grants.

The survey polled 571 adults who intend to donate $200 or more to charity in 2012.  It was conducted October 4 – 7 by independent research firm Opinion Research Corporation.

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