June 24th, 2014

5 New Generosity Trends from National Survey (Post 2)

Give 3d Words Background Generosity and ContributionThis is my second post regarding some important findings as a summary of applications for the local church from the recent research project, “Connected to Give.” If you missed my first post, please check out this link: http://auxa.no/generositytrends. This study reflects upon the national data that was gathered in calendar year 2012 of those giving to religious and charitable institutions. A qualified gift included cash, assets, or property/goods. The study reflects organizations that helped with spiritual development and/or basic human needs, as well as giving patterns to religious organizations like congregations and non-profits with similar motivations. This report is especially unique, because until now “the connections between donors’ orientations, the types of religious and charitable organizations support, and the ultimate purpose of their contributions have not been fully visible.”

Finding #4: The more important one’s faith is the more generous they are.

Research showed that 74% of those who say religion is important to them give. Only 60% of those who say it is somewhat important to them give, while 52% give saying religion is not important to them. Clearly the more growth a believer is experiencing in their faith, the more generous they become.

The research went on to note that 75% of frequent attenders are generous opposed to 26% of infrequent attenders. One might conclude that just getting people to come to church more is enough to produce higher levels of generosity. However, I believe this is only part of the truth. Reality is the more one comes, the more they give, because the opportunity to participate in the offering is a reminder. When people do not attend a given service they typically do not make up their missed contribution in the future. Additionally, attendance is the fruit of discipleship and enjoyment. The more one grows in their faith, the more they enjoy their worshipping environment and the more engaged they become. These fruits are stronger than simply focusing on increased attendance.

Here are a few applications:
1. Create an engaging vision-based culture that people do not want to miss.
2. Make distance giving easy in the digital space especially from mobile devices.
3. Create a discipleship strategy that grows the characteristics of a generous disciple. 4. Increase engagement and relational connections throughout your ministry structure.

As an added bonus frequent attenders also give larger dollar amounts. (I will create another post in the near future on key donor discipleship.)

Finding #5: Donors are motivated to give, because they believe they can make an impact for good.

Too many pastors have experienced a donor seeking to control a gift or use a gift to fulfill an agenda. There are also the scenarios where someone might use the church for business or political reasons. Unfortunately, this is a sad reality and hopefully it is becoming less and less true. I hope you are not wrestling with these ulterior motivations.

The research project did measure peoples motivations to be generous. And social expectations did register. They registered in terms of people asking me to give or how it will help in my work life. Fortunately, the top motivating factors were more altruistic. People want to improve their world, meet a need, and give back. It is a result of their faith commitment, driven to improve their community and world. The vast majority are motivated by moral and religious reasons and not social expectation.

This creates an interesting bottom line for the church. We can’t just ask people to give and expect them to do so because of social pressure to conform to a previous church pattern. I am grateful for committed institutionally supportive donors who give come sink or swim. However, the majority of today’s Americans need a stronger faith and desire to live a bigger life. They don’t naturally believe institutions are good and trustworthy.

Your generosity conversation may need to begin with all the safe measures your church takes to insure the privacy, security, and proper use of funds. However, you should quickly move to telling the story of how the gospel is going forward through your partnership with their generosity. You may need to spend some time deconstructing your program offerings, so you can learn to tell your story via names, faces, places, and partnerships.

Here is one last encouraging fact. The deck is stacked in your favor. God created his people in his image. God is a generous God and his creation longs for and enjoys generosity. They also strive to give predominantly to religious organizations. What if your church members are actually longing to give more and simply need to be led more clearly?

To view the full report, visit faithcommunities.connectedtogive.org. Melanie A. McKitrick, J. Shawn Landres, Mark Ottoni-Wilhelm, and Amir D. Hayat. 2013. Connected to Give: Faith Communities. Los Angeles: Jumpstart.

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