Survey: Giving rises or steady at most churches

A joint study by two giving-related institutes revealed that more than two-thirds of surveyed congregations either held steady or improved their giving numbers over the first half of 2009 compared to the same time frame in 2008. The 2009 Congregational Economic Impact Study which contained the findings was co-authored by the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving at Indiana University and the non-profit research firm The Alban Institute. The surprising resiliency on the part of the 1,500 congregations surveyed was reflected in the statistics. Thirty-seven percent of the congregations experienced a rise in donations, while 34 percent remained the same. The study showed that the creativity of churches to serve those struggling around them — from helping the homeless to cash donations for the unemployed — aided their fundraising goals. Demographics also played a significant role. Congregations with between $600,000 and $1 million in revenue, weekly attendance of more than 300 people, an average congregant age under 50 and an average income base of $60,000 and higher all fared better than their counterparts. “While many congregations have been hit hard by the recession, this study underscores the remarkable resilience of congregations, as evidenced in the extraordinary and imaginative ways they are reaching out to meet the needs of their parishioners and people in their community,” said William Enright, director of the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving at the Center. “We frequently hear about the experiences of larger congregations and how they are coping with economic challenges, while the story of average and smaller congregations often has been wrapped in silence. This study breaks that silence.” Not all the news was positive. About 30 percent of the congregations said giving had decreased in the first half of 2009, an 8.1 percent rise this year in the number of churches reporting a decline in giving over the same period of time in 2008. “This is one of the first looks we have had into the economic realities faced by American congregations during a time of global financial crisis,” said Dr. James Wind, president of the Alban Institute. “We are pleased to have partnered in opening up a fascinating and complex story of national significance. The survey results demonstrate that local congregations, which we often take for granted and treat with misleading conventional wisdom, are much more dynamic, creative, and stronger than many people think. “Clearly, not all congregations are alike — that is one of the major discoveries of the survey. Some are clearly struggling to make ends meet. But many more — and this will be a surprise to many — are holding their own and growing during one of the toughest seasons in our national history. More than that, the survey reveals the great variety of ways they are ministering to an overextended nation.” Link: 2009 Congregational Economic Impact Study: http://www.philanthropy.iupui.edu/LakeFamilyInstitute/docs/2009CongregationalEconomicImpactStudy.pdf

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