Giving USA 2019 Report on 2018, Part 3: Where do We go from Here

Posted on Aug 18, 2019 by Jon Dize - Funding the Mission

We are last post look at the Giving USA 2019 Report.

Part 1 summarized where 2018 generosity came from. Part 2 looked at where the charitable dollars went in America.

So, where do we go from here?

I will start with a quote from a Recent Post by Clif Christopher of Horizons Stewardship:

“Financial resources are not our mission, but they are the fuel that propels the mission.

Without money, there can be no mission and no ministry in these days when the faith is struggling around the world.

What caused the latest decline? Some will blame the last tax law changes that significantly increased the standard deduction and thus reduced the number of people who itemize. Others will say that it just reflects that fewer people are in church and the world is more secular…”

To summarize some of our findings:

  • Over $427 billion was donated to charitable causes in America.
  • over 85% of giving is coming from people.
  • The stock market was in a bit of turmoil at the end of 2018 and curtailed December giving.
  • ⅔ of families give until 2008; now just over 50% give.
  • Giving did not plummet as those opposed to the current White House occupant opined, but we need to determine if giving decline is a blip or a start.
  • Expected changes in the tax laws may have affected decisions. Studies show that even if donors do not itemize, the possibility of loosing that itemization option could be a powerful mental block to donations. People may think they give logically, but they give emotionally a majority of the time.
  • The recovery from the 2008 downturn is slower than expected
  • When compared to when Boomers were in their 20s, Millenials are not donating as much; either they aren’t going to church as much or have been shaped by their experiences through the Great Recession in some way.

To continue that quote from Mr. Christopher:

“...I do not buy into the theory that the causes are all external and thus any solution must be external. I still hold to the conviction that the solution is within the church to save the church, but we have avoided the hard work necessary to make the cultural adjustment to get it done. In the strongest possible way, I am encouraging you to re-examine how you are teaching and preaching financial stewardship. How are you moving your church away from the stewardship methods of the 20th century and responding to a new 21st century culture?”

What should our Lutheran churches and schools be doing today and tomorrow: How about these:

  • 85% of donations are still from people; engage them with your vision.
  • How can you encourage giving from a place of joy rather than a sense of guilt?
  • Individual giving as a percentage of disposable personal income as remained around 2%. What would happen if that changed by a percentage point?
  • Engage with donors; get them to give stock when the market is up and consider monthly giving to minimize any market vagarities.
  • Educate donors that giving to charity is a HORRIBLE way to save taxes! Sure, if you can itemize, a gift of $100 may only cost you $60, but you could just fold that $100 bill in half, place it in your pocket, and save $100. People give to where their hearts are. Turn them into Cheerful Givers.
  • Donors may have created Donor Advised Funds for their charitable giving last year; try an appeal to your database of folks and remind them to give to you from those DAFs! And remember, the timing of their giving from DAFs may not fit the due dates of your light bill. Be prepared for changes in how your donations flow in.
  • Religion and education are still the top giving destinations: take encouragement in that!
  • The impact of high net worth donors is rising; it used to be “80-20”; 80% of the money comes from 20% of the donors. Reality is trending to 90-10. Even 95-5.
  • How can your school or church increase your focus on gifts through estates and wills?
  • If it is true that charitable giving is declining, and if children learn their charitable giving habits from their parents and grandparents, our churches and schools need to stop fleeing from discussions on Stewardship and support. We need to teach the joy of giving! Our futures depend on it.
  • Create a vision to address any demographic changes happening to our congregation and enrollment sources now.
  • Embrace technology like payroll giving, online giving, monthly/automatic giving.
  • From Techsoup, survey your existing donors and nondonors to determine their propensity to donate given changes in the new tax law, for example.
  • Focus your organization's fundraising efforts on diversifying giving options.
  • Hire a fundraising staffer!
  • Pray and Let the Holy Spirit do His work.

And remember, it may still be complicated, but all we have and will have is from God. We are stewards. Let’s Catch the Lutheran Spirit, support quality, Christian education, and keep our heads up, looking forward.