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Gave at the Office?

Time to check the dipstick on the level of compassion among Americans.

Over the past 12 years, a Gallup poll has tracked the amount of both giving and volunteering in the United States. The heartening trends - more people than ever (56 percent) are volunteering - suggest the country may be on the verge of a flood of largess.

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Baby Boomers will be inheriting an estimated $10 trillion in assets over the next 30 years, the biggest transfer of wealth ever. And, predictably, these aging Americans will shift toward giving more time and money to charities, communities, or religious groups. Star-studded leaders include Ted Turner and Bill Gates, who have put billions into international causes.

Many people in their 40s have already turned their business skills into social entrepreneurship by starting up nonprofit groups that allow them to give more than just money.

For people between 35 and 44, the number doing volunteer work has increased more than 12 percent since 1995. And for people over 75, the poll found, the percentage who volunteer has increased 8 percent.

Such trends in generosity are not yet clear when it comes to money.

The percentage of households making contributions - and the inflation-adjusted amount they give - dropped slightly over the past 12 years, despite the recent strong economy. Obviously, giving of oneself is becoming more appealing than giving of one's discretionary income.

The poll also finds that volunteering is highly dependent on one thing: being asked.

That's a call for those already giving to share their joy of it with others.

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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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