Giving to the Church is a Two-Sided Coin of Giving
What picture is on a quarter? Your answer depends upon which side of the coin you are looking at, heads or tails? Two new reports on the state of giving were recently released. Consider these seemingly conflicting statements,
U.S. charitable giving grew 2% year over year, representing an increase of more than 5% over the last three years. Giving to Faith-Based organizations increased by 3.1% in 2020. 1. That sounds like the kind of news everyone would rejoice about. Except consider this fact from the newly released 30th edition of The State of Church Giving through 2018 by empty tomb, inc.
Between 1968 when Americans gave 3.02% of the Disposable Personal Income to the church and 2018 when they gave 2.05%, the lowest amount ever, giving declined 31 of a possible 50 times. Giving as a percent of income did increase in 2015 from 2.12% to 2.13%. Giving increased in 2016 from 2.13% to 2.14%. In 2017 it fell to 2.12% before hitting the all-time low in 2018.2
So, is giving increasing or decreasing? Yes. Understanding that conflicting answer comes through seeing a two-sided view of giving. The first statement is tracking giving as a dollar amount. Thus it is true that Americans are giving more total dollars to charity than ever. Then how can it be said that giving is in decline? The other side of the coin is that since 1968 Americans have been giving a smaller percentage of their Disposable Personal Incomes to the church. This percentage decline came even as American’s personal wealth grew from 1968 to 2018 by 167%. Giving to the Church increased only by 81%. So, Americans are making more money and giving less of it to the church.
Viewing charitable giving only by the number of dollars given is to view only one side of the coin. To project giving trends, you need to keep track of the total amount given and giving as a portion of income. Dr. Ronnie Floyd writes about this in his book, “Ten Percent: A Call to Biblical Stewardship,”
“You must think about giving from two perspectives, like two sides of a coin. One side reveals the percentage of the donor’s income given. The other side reveals the amount in terms of actual dollar amounts given. So, while giving in terms of amounts has increased, giving as a percentage of income is declining.
If you only look at one side of the coin, it has the potential to create a false sense of security about the financial health of the church. For many, this is what has happened. The decline is so slow that we can’t recognize what is right in front of us.” 3
Dr. John Yeats Executive Director, of the Missouri Baptist Convention, in an upcoming article on this issue writes the following,
We have been lulled to sleep by the smallness of each year’s decline. What difference does a declining percentage of giving mean? Here is a quote from the study, “If the same portion of income had been donated in 2018, as was donated in 1968, aggregate Total Contributions would have been $26.4 billion for these denominations, rather than the actual amount given of $18.4 billion, a difference of $8 billion, or an increase of 43%.” 4
Data collected from our churches as well as research we have done on 2020 giving leads me to believe that the increase many saw came from their top tiered donors. While there is nothing wrong with that in the immediate we question how long the this type of giving can be sustained. Two primary reasons drive our thinking.
First, our economy was strong going into the pandemic which allowed many top tiered donors to make significant gifts to sustain their churches. How long can they continue to increase their giving? The answer here depends upon our economy.
The second and most important reason we question whether giving increasing is that our donor base is continuing to age. More and more of our top donors are moving into retirement. Without replacing these members who have been the lifeblood of our churches we have a looming disaster in front of us.
What is the solution? Let me give you three quick responses that can help you avoid the kinds of declines in giving that are headed your way.
Attitude – It starts with you! The attitude I have when I work for you is that your church’s mission is eternally vital. Your making a difference for the Kingdom and your mission deserves to be fully funded. So, start making a case for your vision!
Awareness – It is imperative that you have a good handle on your giving. Knowing your trends allows you to better address the issues you are faced with. The leading firm for helping churches have accurate and up to date data on their donor base is MortarStone. Here is a link to their website, httpss://mortarstone.com/
Action – The best intentions without planning will fail. I always say, if you are not planning you are planning on failure. You must have a plan of action that will lead to an increase not simply in giving but givers. What is your plan for raising up the next generation of generous donors?
Don’t just sit there, do something! The decline in giving will pick up steam quickly. The churches that will avoid this decline are the ones that will keep their doors open. The time to act is NOW!
Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach
I have giving plans for every occasions. Find out how to join my team at https://acts17generosity.com/memberships/
- John Ronsvalle and Sylvia Ronsvalle, The State of Church Giving through 2018 Champaign, IL: empty tomb, inc. 2021 p.12
- Ten Percent: A Call to Biblical Stewardship by Dr. Ronnie Floyd page 6 httpss://www.sbc.net/stewardship/
- The State of Church Giving through 2018 p. 17