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Flocks Smaller, But Churches Raising More Money

By The NonProfit Times - April 2, 2013

Religious congregations reported a 63.2 percent boost in fundraising receipts between 2010 and 2011. Some 25.9 percent reported a decrease, and 11 percent said they saw no change. Of those reporting an increase, 53.7 percent saw a higher average gift and 41.9 percent reported more donors.

Among congregations that reported decreases, 69 percent said they had fewer donors, and 47.8 percent had lower average gifts, according to results of a study by Indiana University School of Philanthropy and the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving. The survey was implemented in partnership with the Alban Institute, the Indianapolis Center for Congregations, the National Association of Church Business Administration and MAXIMUM Generosity.

Some 3,103 congregations were surveyed. About two-thirds were mainline Protestant, one-quarter evangelical Protestant, and the rest were classified as other Christian, Jewish or other. Survey questions assessed congregational finances post-recession (2009-2010), as well as finances in 2011 and in 2012. Giving to religious organizations was estimated at $96 billion in 2011, about a third of all charitable giving dollars, according to Giving USA.

Between the first half of 2011 and the first half of 2012, 37.5 percent of survey respondents reported an increase in fundraising receipts. About 31 percent saw no change, and 21 percent reported a decrease. However, only 39 percent of congregations said their fundraising kept pace with or exceeded inflation between 2007 and 2011, when inflation increased by 8 percent. Some 52 percent said that revenue did not keep up with inflation. Congregations with older attendees were most likely to report lagging behind inflation.

Though more congregations reported fundraising increases than reported decreases, more congregations reported flat or lower attendance than reported increases in attendance. Since the recession, attendance has stayed flat at about 38.1 percent of the surveyed congregations. Only 24.7 percent reported an increase, while 35.9 percent said there has been a decrease in church attendance.

The majority of congregations, about two-thirds, offer some type of electronic giving tool. Of those, 43.6 percent receive direct deposit transfers from their congregants’ paychecks, 29 percent receive online checks or bank transfers from donors, and 12 percent receive gifts directly through their websites.

Clergy members at about half of the responding congregations were unaware of how much money was donated to their organizations and by whom, compared to 45 percent who said they were aware. Less than half of the clergy, or 52 percent, said they had slightly or significantly increased their preaching on the importance of charitable giving, while 52 percent said they had preached about the same or less since the recession.

“Congregations have more work to do in the area of educating congregations on financial planning and charitable giving,” wrote the report’s authors. Only about one-third of survey respondents offer courses, workshops classes or seminars on personal finance or charitable giving. Evangelical Protestant congregations were the most likely to offer financial education, while congregations whose members are, on average, 65 years old or older were the least likely.

Most congregations were able to keep their staff between 2008 and 2011. Only 31.9 percent reduced their full-time or part-time staff by one person or more, with 74.8 percent saying they did not reduce part-time staff, while 79.2 percent did not lay off any full-time staff.

Budgets increased for 48.9 percent of the congregations between 2011 and 2012. Respondents reported increases in budgets for salaries, outreach programs, revenue generating activities and mission activities. About 25.6 percent said their budgets decreased for building maintenance, internal programs, staffing and brick-and-mortar projects. A comparable percentage, 24.3 percent, said budgets stayed the same.

Finally, 32.2 percent of congregations received at least one bequest in 2011. The average dollar value of a bequest was $108,000, and the median was about $22,500. And, 52.7 percent have an endowment. Of those, the average proportion of a congregation’s budget that relies on the endowment was 13.6 percent, with the median being 8 percent.

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