Americans Are Giving More to Charity, Less to the Church, Says Report

Volunteers at Peace Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina package about 10,000 meals to go to the needy in developing countries.
Volunteers at Peace Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina package about 10,000 meals to go to the needy in developing countries. | (Photo: Peace Missionary Baptist Church)

Americans are increasingly giving more to charity, but less of that money is going to the church, according to a newly released report.

An annual research report released Tuesday by the Giving USA Foundation and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy found that Americans are increasing their donations to charities.

For the year 2013, Americans gave approximately $335 billion to charity, which represented an increase of 3 percent when adjusted for inflation.

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However, the percentage of giving to churches declined by 0.2 percent, or 1.6 percent when adjusted for inflation.

"A bit more than a decade ago [donations given to churches] accounted for over 57 percent of giving. So to be down at 31 percent just continues the decline," Gregg Carlson, chair of the Giving USA Foundation, told The Christian Post on Tuesday.

Carlson added that while the decline from 2012 to 2013 was "relatively flat," it nevertheless reflects a trend that has existed for the past few years.

"It continues a pattern trend of giving being a lower and lower percentage of the overall philanthropic pie," said Carlson, who noted that the report's subsection "religion" does not include faith-based charities or universities, but rather "houses of worship."

"It's not that [churches] haven't had some years of increases," Carlson added, "but it is to say that religion is a smaller and smaller percentage of the philanthropic pie."

Carlson also told CP that he and his fellow researchers speculate that the years-long decline is "directly tied to decreases in attendance at houses of worship," as churches are "still very dependent on the passing of the plate" for donations.

Americans' overall trend of giving increased 22 percent from 2009, considered the official end of the Great Recession that began in 2007.

Carlson noted that the numbers represented "the fourth straight year of an increase" in giving by Americans.

"Total giving reached $335 billion. To put that into some context, that's larger than the GDP of countries like Denmark and Ireland, so it's a significant amount of money," said Carlson.

"It's the fourth straight year of an increase since the doldrums of the Great Recession. We really took a hit during the Recession. Giving fell about 15 percent during the Recession. And so we've been climbing out of that point ever since."

According to the Giving USA report, the peak giving year was 2007, when Americans donated an inflation-adjusted $349.5 billion to charity.

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