Cash giving hit 10-year low in 2022 for churches except the richest ones: ECFA report

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Churches, in general, experienced a drop in cash donations for the first time in 10 years in 2022, except for those pulling in revenue of $20 million or more, data from the 2023 Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability State of Giving report show.

“This report represents what we believe to be a gold standard in tracking charitable giving to Christ-centered nonprofits and churches. We processed CPA-prepared financial statements from exactly 2,000 ECFA members. This entails more than $25 billion in total annual donations (cash and non-cash). These financial statements reveal important patterns and trends in giving,” Michael Martin, president and CEO of ECFA, said in the report released on Tuesday.

ECFA members are Christ-centered nonprofit ministries or churches that have committed to ECFA’s Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship and have completed initial and ongoing review processes in order to display the ECFA seal, the organization explains. All ECFA members must also submit CPA-prepared financial statements annually.

The data showed that, for the first time in 10 years, giving to the typical ECFA member did not keep up with inflation in 2022, and they saw an overall decrease in cash donations of 0.7%. Cash donations make up 80.7% of annual revenue for ECFA members.

While cash giving to nonprofit ministries showed little change in 2022, churches continued to struggle to maintain pace with high levels of inflation, and the authors of the report noted that ministries fared better than churches because they have a broader appeal to the general public.

“Ministries tend to have a broader appeal to donors across all denominations and faith differences, where[as] churches tend to receive cash giving only from their members and congregants,” notes the report prepared by Warren Bird, the ECFA’s senior vice president of research and equipping, and Jake Lapp, the ECFA’s vice president of member accountability. “This significant difference is a big reason why there are large fluctuations in cash giving changes between nonprofit ministries and churches in ECFA’s membership.”

Three of the five ministries that experienced the highest cash giving growth from 2021 to 2022 were in the field of education.

Churches reporting under $2 million in annual revenue in 2022 saw their revenues decline by 3.5%; churches with annual revenue of $2 million to $4 million saw cash giving fall by 4.4%; churches with revenue of $6 million to $10 million experienced a 4.2% dip in cash giving, while churches with $10 million to $20 million in revenue saw a 2.1% decline in cash giving. Only churches with revenue of $20 million or higher saw an increase in their cash giving bump up some 2.3%.

A survey of 116 ECFA member churches and 412 nonprofits from September to October showed, however, that cash giving for the first three quarters of the year was rebounding, especially for churches. Some 60% of churches reported that cash giving had increased, 10% said it was about the same, while 30% said it was lower. For ministries in the survey, 43% said cash giving was higher, 19% said it was nearly the same, while 38% said it was lower.

“In contrast to the slight dip in 2022’s cash giving, 2023’s cash giving is positive and stronger, at least for the first nine months of 2023,” the ECFA researchers said. “And the financial outlook for 2024 is likewise optimistic.”

Contact: Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

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