5 Observations on the State of Giving

5 Observations on the State of Giving

In this post, I will share with you my 5 observations on the state of giving in American churches. Trying to predict how COVID19 will impact church giving is proving to be difficult as surveys are reporting vastly different results. Let me illustrate with,

Two surveys with two disparate results – A few weeks back I received the results of two surveys that each in part dealt with the decline in giving among churches.  Let me list their key points,

“Giving Is Climbing, Say Some Church Leaders: New survey offers reasons to be cautiously optimistic after weeks of restrictions on in-person gatherings.”  That headline and subtitle grabbed my attention.  The article references the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) survey that drew responses from 684 churches and 657 nonprofits. Among the church leaders who responded:

  • 47% said giving in April of 2020 was higher than April of 2019, while 19% said it was flat; 20% said it was down by as much as 20%; 9 % said it was down between 20% and 40%, and 5% said it was down 40% or more;
  • 47% said total cash donations (excluding one-time “extraordinary gifts”) were up in April 2020 compared with January 2020 (before the pandemic’s fallout hit the United States), while 25% said it was flat; 15% said it was down by as much as 20%; 10 % said it was down between 20% and 40%, and 3% said it was down 40% or more.
  • 69% expressed optimism regarding the outlook for total cash and donations they expected to receive between May and July of 2020, while 21% said they were “uncertain,” and 15% said they were “pessimistic.” 1.

LifeWay Research the same day tweeted out their own study with these facts.

  • Two in 5 pastors (40%) say giving has decreased compared to earlier this year. A similar number (42%) say giving has continued at similar levels. Few (9%) say giving has increased, while 9% are not sure.
  • Among those who say giving is down, 3 in 10 (30%) say it has dropped less than 25%. More than half (54%) say giving has decreased more than 25%, with 18% reporting it is down 50% or more.
  • These numbers are less bleak than the perception of pastors in March when 52% said giving was down from earlier in the year, 18% said it was flat and 2% said it had increased. More than a quarter (28%) were not sure what to expect. 2.

How do we process this information?  Here are my observations. 

  1. It is far too early to make hard and fast predictions.  I think it is safe to say two things.  First, no one church’s experience is going to match another.  This accounts for the wide disparity in the polling. 
  2. The majority of churches will see some type of giving decline.  I base this on historical look backs at previous times of crisis, studies such as listed above, and my own experience talking with you.  The real question is,
  3. Has giving stabilized?  This is the crucial question. I think it has stabilized but why?  My feel right now is that the typical church’s core and key donors have stepped up to bridge the gap.  How long can they do that is dependent upon how fast the economy gets back on its feet. The other question that must be asked is what demographic is driving your giving’s stability?  My guess is that it is Baby Boomers.  How long can that last?  Then we need to ask,
  4. Is this the new normal?  Honestly, no one knows.  What we do know is that attendance and giving were already in decline before COVID19.  What will be the lasting impact on both after we return to whatever the new normal is?  So, here is my final observation,
  5. All the data in the world about the church across the state or across the street is meaningless as you are concerned with how giving is going at the church you serve in.  This is why my life goal is to,

Reverse the decline in giving one church at a time starting with your church!  Let’s get to work. I have designed a platform called, The Stewardship Coach that will provide you with every tool you need for a price you can afford. Check my plans out here, https://acts17generosity.com/memberships/

Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach

@stewardshipman

  1. https://www.churchlawandtax.com/web/2020/june/giving-is-climbing-say-some-church-leaders.html?fbclid=IwAR1GEy7HL06AXo-iklq8jpqXoEhUkVg41Bs6c4EdUcCvb7187dxCHgbhgp0
  2. https://lifewayresearch.com/2020/05/01/few-protestant-churches-met-in-person-for-worship-services-in-april/

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