Survey: Nominal Giving Rises but Actual Giving Stagnates

Although Americans continue to give billions of dollars to charity and churches, the real value of these donations is not increasing, according to a survey by the Barna Group.

"Americans give away enormous sums of money every year. The annual survey of religious behavior conducted by The Barna Group shows that Americans continued that pattern of generosity in 2004, but that even though their giving to non-profit organizations and churches is significant, it is not increasing," states the report.

A large majority of people donated in 2004.

According to the survey, nearly four out of every five adults - 83 percent - donated money to one or more non-profit organizations, and the average amount donated per person was $1232, which stands at three percent of an individual's income.

In addition The Barna Group found that churches receive the largest share of the money donated each year. 65 percent donated to a church or other place of worship with evangelical Christians in the lead at 97 percent of all evangelicals donating to church.

George Barna, founder of the Barna Group, states that "Protestants continue to give more generously to their churches than do Catholics. Protestant adults gave an average of $1304 to churches in 2004, compared to $547 given by the typical Catholic. The most generous donors of all, however, were evangelicals, who averaged $3250 in church giving."

Although these sums may appear to be a substantial increase, when inflation is factored in, the current dollar average is actually less than the amount than late 1990s.

Nominal Giving Rises But Actual Giving Decreases

Annual giving to churches rose by 11 percent, but after factoring in inflation, churches are getting about two percent more than contributed in 1999.

Another trend was the practice of donating 10 percent of the annual income to church. Tithing is practiced by very few Americans at only four percent, according to Barna, though good stewardship remains an important priority for Christians.

Ultimately, Barna explained, "Americans are willing to give more generously than they typically do, but it takes a purposeful and well-executed approach to facilitate that generosity, Barna concludes.”

The Barna Group, Ltd., and its research division - The Barna Research Group - is a privately held, for-profit corporation that conducts primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984. Visit The Barna Group www.barna.org for the full report.