The year 2009 has so far been a rough one.
Last month, the U.S. unemployment rate zoomed to 8.5 percent - the highest in a quarter-century - after employers axed 663,000 more workers. It was also the first time job losses topped 600,000 for a fourth month in a row in government record-keeping dating to 1939.
According to estimates, there are now over 13 million jobless in America.
Even in these difficult times, however, one charitable giving expert says God expects His leaders to engage His people to support His work - not only for the sake of their ministries, but also for the sake of believers.
The biblical principles, unlike the economy, are unchanging, says Rick Dunham, president and CEO of Dunham+Company, which consults with more than 40 ministries on four continents.
"A non-giving follower of Christ is an oxymoron. You can't proclaim to be following Christ and not invest in His Kingdom work to push back the spiritual darkness of Satan's kingdom," Dunham writes in the revised, second edition of his 2007 book If God Will Provide, Why Do We Have to Ask for Money?
"What God wants is the one thing you own and have complete control over - your heart," he adds, before explain how only investing in God's Kingdom work can that happen.
In a survey conducted earlier this year by Wilson Research Strategies for Dunham+Company, 56 percent of Americans in general said they plan to give the same amount to charities in 2009, with 14 percent saying they intend to give more and 27 percent saying they intend to reduce giving.
Among those who attend religious services more than once a week - about 27 million Americans - 60 percent said they intend to give the same amount in 2009. Slightly more than one in five (21 percent) say they intend to give more, and 17 percent say they plan to reduce their giving.
"With the ongoing tremors in the economy and with households continuing to pull back on spending, charities are going to have to work that much harder to gain a share of household expenditures," Dunham commented.
In a more recent survey, over half of charitable non-profit organizations reported a decrease in contributions over the past few months.
More specifically, the survey by GuideStar found that 31 percent of charities reported a "modest" drop in contributions while another 21 percent said contributions fell "greatly."
Furthermore, although only 35 percent of organizations cut their annual budgets from 2008 to 2009, GuideStar was quick to point out that an increase in demand for the charities' services, rather than higher donations, were the likely cause for not slashing budgets.
A majority of those surveyed (59 percent) reported an increase in demand for their services.
"The economy is having a profound impact on nonprofits," stated GuideStar president and CEO Bob Ottenhoff in his organization's report.
GuideStar, which manages a database of 1.8 million IRS-recognized organizations, plans to conduct more surveys this year to find out how non-profits are coping with the recession.
In the meantime, it is encouraging organizations to explore "any and all" possible funding streams, including government sources and corporate partnerships.
It is also encouraging organizations to focus on their employees to ensure that the organization remains strong and healthy.
As for Dunham, the ministry consult encourages leaders to follow three basic principles that can provide them with a foundation for any biblical fundraising campaigns.
The first is to clearly direct people where to give. The second is to be willing to challenge them to give to the work God is doing through the ministry. And the third is to show donors the impact of their gifts in people's lives.
"If your ministry is going to have the impact God intends, it's pivotal to engage His people in the work He is doing in the world today," Dunham states.