U.S. Congregations Aid Developing World with $8.6B

Religious organizations in the United States gave a total of $8.6 billion to the developing world in 2007, making up nearly a quarter of the total U.S. giving to developing countries, a new national survey reveals.

"Clearly religious giving plays a large part in American assistance to the developing world," stated the Index of Global Philanthropy and Remittances report by Hudson Institute's Center for Global Prosperity.

The survey, which was conducted in partnership with the University of Notre Dame's Center for the Study of Religion and Society, found that the 74 percent of congregations reported financial donations to U.S.-based international relief and development organizations in 2007, a jump from 57 percent in 2006.

Of these U.S. congregations, an average donation of $11,960 was given, slightly up from the average in 2006.

Meanwhile, 27 percent, or about 89,000 congregations, of those polled contributed $3.3 billion – which includes $79 million in donated goods – directly to programs in foreign countries.

Among the 34 percent of congregations that sent members on short-term mission or service trips, 73 percent of them provided $759 million in support for these trips. Another 30 percent of congregations supported longer term mission trips for relief and development with $1.4 billion, according to the survey.

Overall, 34 percent of total religious giving was directed to education, 26 percent was for health and medical projects, 22 percent was for disaster relief, 17 percent went to economic development, and half a percent was for democracy and governance.

Of the total contributions by U.S. congregations, 36 percent went to Latin America and the Caribbean, 29 percent were directed to Asia and the Pacific, 21 percent went to sub-Saharan Africa, 9 percent went to Europe and Central Asia, and 5 percent went to North Africa and the Middle East.

"Together, religious organizations and PVOs (private and voluntary organizations), including volunteers to international development causes, gave more in aid to developing countries than the U.S. government did in 2007," said Carol Adelman, director of the CGP, in a statement. "Religious congregations – like Saddleback Church in California – are becoming major players in the world of international development, bringing new ideas, dollars, and people to the table to help the world's poor."

The CGP report highlighted southern California's Saddleback Church, founded by Rick Warren, and its global P.E.A.C.E. plan which is an ongoing effort to mobilize Christians worldwide to tackle the world's greatest ills.

Through the P.E.A.C.E. plan, Saddleback has sent out nearly 8,000 volunteers on missions in 70 countries, contributed an estimated 2.5 million hours of volunteer time, and raised an estimated $9 million, according to the CGP report.

Total U.S. economic engagement with developing countries in 2007 was $235.2 billion.

Giving from religious congregations, foundations, corporations, PVOs, volunteers, and colleges and universities to the developing world totaled $36.9 billion, over one-and-a-half times U.S. government aid for the same period.

The CGP report on religious organizations was also based on data from the Billy Graham Center on giving by Protestant mission agencies and data from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.