Giving stays steady or increases in 2/3 of churches

The impact of the recession on churches in a variety of denominations is reported in a new study from the Alban Institute.

The findings are part of the 2009 Congregational Economic Impact Study, a joint project of the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and the Alban Institute, based in the Washington, DC area. The study was based on more than 1,500 responses, nearly all from the membership of the Alban Institute.

Almost 37 percent of congregations reported an increase in fundraising for the first half of 2009 over 2008. Another 34 percent reported that fundraising receipts stayed the same between 2008 and the first half of 2009.

Nevertheless, nearly 30 percent of congregations experienced a decrease in giving in 2009. This is 8.1 percentage points more than reported a decline in 2008.

According to the report: “Congregations responded to the recession in a wide variety of ways, from feeding the homeless and providing emergency cash assistance to those in need to hosting community gardens, offering support groups and networking events for the unemployed, helping with financial planning, and increasing partnerships with other community groups.”

Some congregations fared better than others. “Growth congregations,” those where attendance and finances have been growing over the past five years, were more likely to report positive fundraising results. Congregations with $600,000 to $999,999 in revenue, weekly attendance of more than 300 people, younger congregants (average age under 50), and those reporting a higher average income of congregants (greater than $60,000) were more likely to report an increase in fundraising receipts.

“Survival congregations,” those where attendance and finances have dropped by more than 10 percent over the past five years, were more likely to report a decline in fundraising. Other congregations that were more likely to report a decrease included those with annual revenue of less than $150,000, weekly attendance of less than 100 people, older congregants (average age 61 or older), and those where the average income of congregants was less than $40,000.

Full report is here.

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