For those of you who have read this blog for any length of time (God bless you), you know that I get a little freaked out by numbers. Math has never been my strong suit. It was torture in high school. I barely scraped through not one but two statistics classes in grad school. Therefore, it stands to reason that I am my church’s Finance Chair. The world’s turned upside down.
However, there is one time of the year that I actually like to nerd out on numbers and graphs. That my friends, is the annual Giving USA report.
This year's study is out and you should take a look.
Here are the highlights from 2021:
- Overall giving increased by 4% between 2020 and 2021. By comparison, the increase between 2019 and 2020 was 9.4%. But let’s be happy that giving continues to be on the increase.
- Religion still reigns in the #1 spot for charitable giving at 27%. Hooray! That’s the good news.
- Religious giving in 2021 grew by 5.4% but – given inflation – stayed flat from 2021. As Philanthropy Roundtable noted: “Given the pandemic-related shutdown and many religious communities unable to worship in person for periods throughout 2021, this increase (flat with inflation) giving pattern is worth noting.” In other words, even if people weren’t able to worship in person, they were still faithfully giving.
- Keep your eye on the trends in religious giving; over time it continues to plummet. For example, between…
- 1982-1986 – religious giving made up 58% of all donations
- 1997-2001 – religious giving was at 39%
- 2017-2021 – religious giving now comes in at 29%.
What does this mean for you?
- If you haven’t gone to some form of electronic giving, it’s never too late. As The NonProfit Times noted, “Organizations that already had a digital presence were able to get donors and patrons much faster than those where staff had to scramble to get online.” Here’s a post to get you going, Have You Set Up Online Giving Yet?
- Make the offering part of your worship, even if you’ve ditched the offering plate. The Lilly School of Philanthropy said, “…the truth is that when it comes to online giving, houses of worship must adopt virtual options while engaging participants regularly. It seems that passing the plate – even if symbolic – proves exceptionally meaningful.” Want an example of how to do it? Check out, Make Online Giving a Spiritual Experience. But don’t forget to recognize the power of giving during in-person worship either. Tell stories, point out ways to give, thank people.
- Your givers – no matter what they are able to give – deserve a thank you and a story. Neon One reported that “84.1 % of [all] donors are giving under $500 annually to causes they support, and the newest Fundraising Effectiveness Project data shows that new donor retention is only 19%. That means that nonprofits are losing the vast majority of small donors.” Even though you know that the retention rate in churches is higher, the importance of thanking your givers and telling them the impact of their gifts cannot be overstated. Need some inspiration? Read Opening Lines, More Important than You Think. Or 4 Steps to Build a Better Story.
And with that, dear friends, my one-day love affair with numbers is over! Let me know what you think of these latest statistics and how you might respond to them in your church. And while you’re at it, feel free to let me know what math class you excelled in at school. Go ahead. I can take it.