Data indicates that Americans’ financial generosity is continuing to grow. Americans exceeded the $400 billion mark in charitable giving in 2017 for the first time in history, a fact which might come as a surprise to many local church pastors who are not necessarily seeing 5 percent annual increase in donations to their churches. A reason for this shift is that Americans are changing where they invest their charitable funds.
Americans are increasing their giving to charities; however, the local church is not the exclusive charity to which they give.
According to Aggie Sweeney, Chair of Giving USA Foundation, while religious charities continue to be the nation’s single largest recipient of charitable giving, Americans “seem to be to be giving according to their beliefs and interests, which are diverse and wide-ranging.”
While Americans’ giving to religious groups increased 2.9 percent, this progress was significantly smaller than increases in giving to education, human services, foundations, health organizations, arts and culture, and environmental and animal charities (Giving USA 2018: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2017).
The trend for giving to the local congregation (as the exclusive or even the primary recipient) is shifting as shown in this graph.
This trend is reflected in giving to the churches in the Church of the Nazarene’s USA/Canada Region. While giving has grown on a per capita basis in the past decade by five percent ($1,723 to $1,804), this decadal increase has not kept up with inflation, which was 19.1 percent for this same time period. Adjusted for inflation,$1,723 from 2009 would have been $2,024 in 2018 (https://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm).
Though there has been a decadal increase in per capita giving, this is not reflected in an overall increase in total giving due to a net decadal decrease in worship attendance. Total giving has decreased nine percent over the past decade. Total Church giving totaled $886,455,303 in 2009, but decreased to $802,423,007 for 2018. However, while Church Income and World Evangelism Fund giving decreased over this period, giving to Approved Specials increased 14 percent from $25,225,077 to $28,784,414.