While total estimated charitable giving edged up by 3.8% compared to 2009, gifts to churches and religious organizations actually declined when adjusted for inflation. Philanthropy toward other human services groups, like those which sought funds for the Haiti earthquake disaster, fell even more, registering a 1.5% decline when adjusted for inflation.
The latest information on charitable giving is out, courtesy of the Giving USA Foundation. Their Giving USA 2011: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2010, is an invaluable tool for those interested in charitable giving, including churches and religious institutions.
Here are the charitable giving recipients who benefited from the rise in giving (subtract approximately 1.6% to adjust for inflation):
- Educational institutions up by 5.2%
- Foundations up by 1.9%
- Health research and organizations up by 1.3%
- Public-society benefit causes up by 6.2%
- The arts and humanities up by 5.7%
- International affairs up by 15.3%
- Religious groups and organizations at 0.8% (adjusted for inflation -0.8%)
- Human services at 0.1% (adjusted for inflation -1.5%)
- Environmental and animal causes at 0.7% (adjusted for inflation -0.9%)
But, I believe that the continuing decline of religious institutions, churches in particular, also means that there are fewer people to give to support churches and their ministries. To address this problem, and to qualify for gifts from foundations and even government programs, many churches have formed not-for-profit corporations under which they fund and run their programs designed to benefit the common good. Some churches will have ideological difficulties in making that leap, but other churches which have successfully done so can serve as models.
The good news for churches in all of this is that charitable bequests are up 18.8%. Your church might consider doing what ours has just done — establish an endowment fund and encourage your members to leave a bequest to the church in their will. You will need to consult estate-planning professionals to help your church craft a program that will ensure benefactors that their money will be handled carefully to ensure the long-term viability of the congregation they love. But, with careful planning, churches can take advantage of this trend in charitable giving.