Personas of Doners

Part
01
of three
Part
01

Christian-based Charity Giving: Trends

The largest share of the $428 billion worth of charitable giving in the U.S. in 2018 was donated to religion (29%, which equated to $125 billion). Accordingly, most of our findings pertain to church giving because religion is the top recipient of all U.S. charitable giving. Four trends in Christian-based charity giving in the U.S. include Millennials making "meaningful" gifts, giving to children and youth purposes, giving tithe money to Christian ministries, and the fact that most church-goers give to their churches.


Christian Millennials Like to Make "Meaningful" Gifts

  • Millennials give more money when they are encouraged "to make a 'meaningful' gift rather than a 'generous' one."
  • A research study conducted by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability surveyed over "16,500 people who had recently donated to 17 of its member ministries" and found interesting insights about Millennials' giving patterns. The study surveyed Millennials and people ages 35 and over.
  • Among Christian Millennial first-time givers, 69% felt hopeful from giving, in contrast to the 60% of people 35+ who reported the same.
  • Among Christian Millennial first-time givers, 45% felt generous from giving, compared to the 25% of people 35+ who felt that way.
  • Among Christian Millennial first-time givers, 18% felt spontaneous from giving, in contrast to the 11% of people 35+ who reported the same.
  • What's more, the survey found that Christian Millennial first-time givers were "more likely to feel every emotion . . . asked about."
  • As the public population ages, it seems likely this trend will impact Christian-based charity solicitation.

Christians Give Most for Children & Youth Causes

  • A podcast episode titled "7 Church Giving Trends to Watch in 2019" discussed the top causes receiving Christian donations.
  • The podcast episode is just over 13 minutes long and contains a lot of interesting content.
  • The most relevant information is discussed beginning at the 4:46 minute mark.
  • A 2018 Giving USA report surveyed 2,744 Christian donors.
  • That survey identified the top causes that Christians give to. Those causes and the percentages of Christian donors who gave to them are as follows: Children & Youth (17%); Faith & Spirituality (11%); Health & Wellness (11%); Animals & Wildlife (10%); and Human & Social Services (8%).
  • This trend is impacting Christian-based charity giving by increasing funding for children and youth purposes and thus lowering funding for other purposes.

3. Giving Tithes to Christian Ministries

  • A 2018 article discussed giving statistics determined by a study conducted by LifeWay Research, which surveyed 1,010 people in the U.S. who go to nondenominational or Protestant churches on "at least [a] monthly" basis and 1,000 Senior Protestant pastors.
  • That survey found that approximately half of the people said "they can give their tithes to a Christian ministry instead of a church."
  • This trend is impacting Christian-based charity giving by increasing tithe-based funding for Christian ministries at the expense of church funding.

4. Most Church-Goers Give to Their Churches

  • The LifeWay Research study referenced in section three above also analyzed giving behaviors among the same group of individuals.
  • The study found that 54% of the people "give a tenth or more of their income to their church."
  • One in five people reported that they give on a regular basis.
  • Among those surveyed, 8% said that "their finances make it difficult to donate."
  • A mere 2% of the individuals said they don't give "to their church."
  • Other research has found that Christians give 2.5% of their income to churches. For reference, that number was 3.3% in the time of the Great Depression.
  • This trend (the majority of church-goers giving to their churches) is impacting Christian-based charity giving by helping to maintain consistent funding for churches.

Research Strategy

We identified the four trends included above by reviewing numerous articles about Christian-based charity giving from a wide variety of sources. As was explained in the introduction, many of our findings pertain to church giving because religion is the top recipient of all U.S. charitable giving. We categorized each of the above trends as trends because they were either expressly described as such by a reputable source or based on the supporting data clearly demonstrating the prevalence of such, thus making it a trend. All our findings are specific to the U.S. Furthermore, all our findings pertain to giving among Christians specifically and not faith-based giving in general (which much of the research was about).
Part
02
of three
Part
02

Differences in Christian Charity Giving

Baby boomers donate to Christian-based charities more than any other generation while millennials donate the least. Christian-based giving is highest in the Southeast region of the U.S. and lowest in the Northeast region. Additional insights are below.

AGE

  • According to Blackbaud Institute's Charitable Giving Report, baby boomers represent 41.6% of all donations to nonprofits, including churches. This is the generation with the highest percentage of donors.
  • The average age of a donor in the United States is 62, which is the age of a baby boomer (born in 1957).
  • The silent generation (ages 74-91) represent 30.5% of all donations to nonprofits, including churches.
  • Donations from generation X only make up 15.7% of the total donations given to U.S. nonprofits, causing major concern for churches and other charities.
  • However, donors between the ages of 40 and 64 (generation X and baby boomers) give an average of $2,505 per year to religious causes, the highest average of any age group.
  • Donors under the age of 40 (young generation X and younger) give an average of $1,892 per year to religious causes and donors over age 65 (baby boomers and the silver generation) give an average of $2,338 per year to religious causes.
  • Millennials donate less than generation X, with their donations representing just 5.4% of total charitable giving.
  • As the church faces the eventual loss of the older generations, who represent their largest donors, it must learn to engage the younger generations by changing traditions that no longer work. For example, churches may need to "move away from trying to communicate to them with things like paper bulletins and sign-up lists" and move toward technology that enables digital giving.
  • Millennials do donate, but they do not agree with previous generations that the church is the best place for their donations to go. A Qgiv survey found that 60% of millennials donate an average of $481 per year, but they want to understand where their money is going and what it's being used for.

REGION

  • There is a strong link between worship attendance and donations, with a University of Michigan study finding that "those attending religious services once a month or more make an average annual religious contribution of $1,848, while those attending religious services less than once a month donate $111."
  • Therefore, states with the highest worship attendance would likely have higher donation amounts.
  • In addition, Protestants, other Christians (48.5%), and Catholics (22.7%) make up the largest religious groups in the United States at 71.2%. Therefore, it is assumed that the University of Michigan and Pew Research studies apply heavily to the Christian religion.
  • Pew Research ranked the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on the percentage of people attending religious worship services at least once a week. They are organized by region below:

MIDWEST

  • Nebraska: 39%
  • Ohio: 38%
  • Indiana: 37%
  • Kansas: 37%
  • Missouri: 37%
  • Iowa: 36%
  • South Dakota: 36%
  • Illinois: 34%
  • Minnesota: 34%
  • Michigan: 33%
  • North Dakota: 33%
  • Wisconsin: 27%
  • Average Midwest weekly worship attendance rate: 35%

NORTHEAST

  • Rhode Island: 36%
  • New Jersey: 35%
  • Pennsylvania: 34%
  • New York: 29%
  • Connecticut: 28%
  • Massachusetts: 23%
  • Maine: 22%
  • New Hampshire: 22%
  • Vermont: 21%
  • Average Northeast weekly worship attendance rate: 28%

SOUTHEAST

  • Alabama: 51%
  • Tennessee: 51%
  • Mississippi: 49%
  • South Carolina: 47%
  • Louisiana: 46%
  • West Virginia: 46%
  • Virginia: 44%
  • Georgia: 42%
  • Arkansas: 41%
  • Kentucky: 39%
  • North Carolina: 39%
  • Florida: 35%
  • Delaware: 34%
  • Maryland: 31%
  • District of Columbia: 28%
  • Average Southeast weekly worship attendance rate: 42%

SOUTHWEST

  • Oklahoma: 43%
  • Texas: 42%
  • New Mexico: 36%
  • Arizona: 34%
  • Average Southwest weekly worship attendance rate: 39%

WEST

  • Utah: 53%
  • Wyoming: 38%
  • Idaho: 35%
  • California: 31%
  • Nevada: 31%
  • Montana 31%
  • Alaska: 30%
  • Colorado: 30%
  • Washington 30%
  • Oregon: 29%
  • Hawaii: 28%
  • Average West weekly worship attendance rate: 33%
  • Based on the above data from Pew Research, the Southeast region of the U.S. attends religious worship services most frequently at 42%, which according to the University of Michigan, correlates with higher donations.
  • The region with the second-highest religious worship attendance rate is the Southwest at 39%, followed by the Midwest at 35%.
  • The region with the least frequent religious worship attendance is the Northeast at 28%, which correlates with lower donations.
  • The West region also has a fairly low religious worship attendance rate at 33%.

RESEARCH STRATEGY

To identify the similarities and differences in Christian-based charitable giving between ages and regions in the U.S., we began by searching for surveys that analyze Christian-based giving patterns. We found an article from PushPay that documented some giving statistics based on age taken from Blackbaud Institute and Qgiv studies, but those studies were not specifically focused on faith-based donations. However, the PushPay article applied the findings from these surveys to religious giving, which indicated that we may not find Christian-based charitable giving statistics independent from overall giving data. We put this information aside as we continued our search for more specific data.

A little further into our survey research, we discovered a report from USAGives, which provided information on the average religious donation amount by age. This data roughly corresponded with the Blackbaud and Qgiv studies that found that older Americans tend to give more to charities than the younger generations. Unfortunately, the USAGives report did not segment its donation amounts by religion, so we were unable to determine if the amounts donated are different for Christian-based charitable giving compared to other religions. We did find data from a Gallup Poll that shows that the Christian religion is the dominant religion in the U.S., which indicates that Christians would represent the majority of survey participants. Therefore, we elected to use the Blackbaud and Qgiv data on age-related statistics and apply them to religious-based giving with the assumption that the overall findings would apply to Christian-based giving more than any other religious-based giving in the U.S.

These initial surveys did not have any statistics related to Christian-based charitable giving by region in the U.S., so we turned elsewhere. Despite searching in Christian publications such as Crux, CS Monitor, ECFA, and ChurchIndeed, among others, and in nonprofit publications from sources such as Charity Navigator, NonProfit Pro, Fundly, and others, we were unable to find a breakdown of giving by U.S. region, either overall or specifically related to religion. We did find interesting statistics in Crux that came from a University of Michigan study that found that people who attend church frequently donate more to religious-based causes than those who attend less frequently. These statistics provided us with our new strategy, which was to identify the regions that have high percentages of people attending religious services on a frequent basis. This led us to a Pew Research study that ranked all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on the percentage of people who attend religious worship services at least once a week.

Using this data from Pew Research, we organized the states according to region and calculated the average percentage of attendance from all states within a region. This allowed us to compare the attendance rate among U.S. regions to determine which regions are likely to donate more to religious causes and which regions are likely to donate less. Again, the Pew Research study was not religion-specific; however, using the Gallup Poll data that shows that Christianity is the dominate religion in the U.S., we assumed that the majority of people attending worship services in the U.S. are Christians. Therefore, the data in these studies apply to Christians more than members of other religions.

CALCULATIONS

  • Midwest: 39% + 38% + 37% + 37% + 37% + 36% + 36% + 34% + 34% + 33% + 33% + 27% = 421 / 12 = 35%
  • Northeast: 36% + 35% + 34% + 29% + 28% + 23% + 22% + 22% + 21% = 250 / 9 = 28%
  • Southeast: 51% + 51% + 49% + 47% + 46% + 46% + 44% + 42% + 41% + 39% + 39% + 35% + 34% + 31% + 28% = 623 / 15 = 42%
  • Southwest: 43% + 42% + 36% + 34% = 155 / 4 = 39%
  • West: 53% + 38% + 35% + 31% + 31% + 31% + 30% + 30% + 30% + 29% + 28% = 366 / 11 = 33%
  • Part
    03
    of three
    Part
    03

    Doner Persona: Christians

    US Christians' interests include supporting their families, supporting their lifestyles and feeling content. Christian charity donors prefer online payment options when making a donation. Below, relevant findings have been highlighted, followed by an explanation of assumptions and research strategies deployed in an attempt to obtain the requested information.


    Christian charity donors persona


    Media habits


    Interests


    Motivation


    Additional helpful findings


    RESEARCH STRATEGY

    We were unable to determine interests and media habits specifically of US Christians who give to charity. As a replacement, interests of Christians in general, as well as media habits of charity donors in general have been provided. Additionally, media habits of Christians who give to charity in church have been provided as helpful findings. In an attempt to locate insights specific to Christian donors, the following strategies have been deployed:

    First, the research team has conducted a search for psychographic analyses of Christian charity donors in the US. Our reasoning behind the strategy was that psychographic analyses usually provide information on habits and interests of specific demographics and a psychographic analysis relevant to our interests might have already been compiled by a reliable, industry-specific source such as Research Gate, Wiley Online Library or Pursuant, among others. However, the few available psychographic profiles focused on charity donors in general rather than Christians specifically, briefly mentioning how charity donors tend to be religious.

    Next, we searched for surveys that consult American Christian charity donors on their habits and interests, in order to include media habits and interests most often stated by Christian donors. To find surveys, we consulted research agencies that conduct surveys among the American population, such as Pew Research, McKinsey, PricewaterhouseCoopers. Although relevant surveys surrounding motivations of Christian donors were uncovered this way, there were no surveys that specifically consulted Christians that give to charity on their interests and habits. Instead, these surveys focused on Christians in general, regardless of whether they donate to charity.

    We have then decided to use an assumption to provide information on Christian donors' media habits and interests. Our search uncovered that Evangelic Christians and Protestants are among the 3 religions that give to charities the most. Because of that, we assumed that, among religious charity donors, Christians are those that give to charity most often. Thus, our idea was to use information on habits and interests of religious US charity donors as a proxy for Christian donors in US. However, even after extensively searching through various relevant sources such as Religion News Service, Camber Collective, among others, it was evident that no studies, analyses or surveys specifically focus on American religious charity givers' media habits and interests. Religion is often mentioned as a factor that influences donors' decision to give to charity, however the available information does not go in-depth on charity givers who are religious or give to charity because of religion.
    Sources
    Sources

    From Part 03
    Quotes
    • "Over the last couple decades, soaring interest in the poorest of the poor by evangelical Christians in particular has made overseas giving the fastest growing corner of American charity. One result: U.S. voluntary giving to the overseas poor now totals $44 billion annually—far more than the $33 billion of official aid distributed by the U.S. government."