June 23rd, 2014

5 New Generosity Trends from National Survey

Give 3d Words Background Generosity and ContributionI would like to present some important findings as a summary of applications for the local church from the recent research project, “Connected to Give.” 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 #1: Faith plays a significant part in charitable giving.

The study found that 73% of charitable giving goes to clearly identified religious groups – 41% to local congregations and 32% to faith-based organizations. This means that a smaller percentage of charitable giving goes to non-religious identified organizations. One’s faith makes a difference in why they give, what they give, and where they give.

Good news church leader, you are in the faith business and are a faith-based organization. You offer faith, teach faith, grow faith, and live faith. Therefore, you stand in line to be considered for the vast majority of giving dollars in your city. The competing news would say you are not the only one in your city standing in the line.

In years past, it would not have been uncommon for a local evangelical church to side strongly on the side of the gospel, but weak on the side of justice or physical needs. Suffering could have been seen as a natural result of choices or even deserved. Physical help could have been seen as incomplete help and not the most important kind of help. Thankfully, today that conversation is changing, and physical help is often seen as a first step toward faith. Americans desire that their religious life be reflected in meeting both spiritual and physical needs. The local church needs to re-think its position, message, and commitments if it wants to better engage people who are already willing to be generous. If not, they will look elsewhere to funnel their passions. Proof, those donors who give to local congregations give 48% to their congregation and 32% to religious identified organizations.

Finding #2: While the majority of giving dollars go to religious based organizations, the majority of Americans give to non-religious based organizations.

This finding relates to the quantity of people verses the quantity of dollars being donated. Fewer Americans give more dollars to religious institutions, but more Americans give to non-religious institutions. This means in part that people are really generous by nature and that they are motivated by causes whether the cause is faith-based or not. Americans tend to give to both religious and non-religious groups that are multi-purpose and meet basic human needs locally or abroad, like healthcare, education, youth/family, and environment.

There are several implications a local church should consider.
• People enjoy giving to causes, so make sure you have clear and compelling causes throughout the year.
• People are more trusting to give to organizations they feel have specific impact. So, share specifically about your success.
• Develop partnerships with local organizations that are cause oriented and align well with your mission.
• Learn your ROI, return on investment. You are in a competitive market for giving dollars. Most non-profits tell a better story of impact, involvement, and investment than the local church. Your message is most likely easily overwhelmed.

Finding #3: Impact and outcome (what a gift accomplishes thru an organization) go hand in hand with how (organizational strategy) and why (organizational motives).

This is important to understand in terms of building a generous culture. When a church typically discusses money it is in terms of budget obligations, building needs, or a funding crisis. Then, if one of these isn’t the topic there is often silence. Of course, the media fills the airwaves with true stories of churches financial and moral failures. So, you are losing on every front.

The odds are that your church is deeply committed to the greatest cause on planet earth, that you passionately care for hurting people, that you long for people to be engaged in the mission, and you have never mishandled a donor’s gift. Still, I bet you are not telling this story in a clear, compelling, catalytic, concise, and contextual way. At Auxano we have found it to be absolutely true, that vision work is generosity work. You have to put in the hard time to learn your story and translate it into culture building language.

Because we know that Americans enjoy generosity, we must conclude that if your church is batting below average it has to do more with the organization than we like to think. The strategic alignment of vision, values, and strategy are critical. This should focus your staff, resources, and ministry. When your church is operating in one powerfully defined direction you will see more results, more generosity, and more anticipation of the next opportunity. It’s not just about marketing your story; it is passionately living your story throughout every aspect of your organization.

To view the last two findings, please see my next post here http://auxa.no/generositytrendspost2.

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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