Less Than One-third of Congregations Report Decline in Giving in First Half of 2009
INDIANAPOLIS — More than two-thirds of congregations in a new study on congregational finances in the current recession reported that their fundraising receipts increased or remained the same in the first half of 2009 compared to 2008, even as the recession was worsening.
The findings are part of the 2009 Congregational Economic Impact Study, a joint project of the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and the Alban Institute, based in the Washington, DC area. The study was based on more than 1,500 responses, nearly all from the membership of the Alban Institute.
Almost 37 percent of congregations reported an increase in fundraising for the first half of 2009 over 2008. Another 34 percent reported that fundraising receipts stayed the same between 2008 and the first half of 2009.
Nevertheless, nearly 30 percent of congregations experienced a decrease in giving in 2009. This is 8.1 percentage points more than reported a decline in 2008.
“The recession has affected many congregations throughout the United States,” said Una Osili, research director at the Center on Philanthropy. “One-third of responding congregations reported making budget cuts in 2009 and another quarter kept their operational budget the same, not allowing for any increases in the cost of living.”
Just 6.8 percent of congregations reduced the number of full-time staff in response to the recession. Slightly more, 10.7 percent, laid off part-time staff. Nearly 16 percent did not increase staff salaries, while almost 15 percent cut utility costs and 13.6 percent reduced program costs.
“While many congregations have been hit hard by the recession, this study underscores the remarkable resilience of congregations, as evidenced in the extraordinary and imaginative ways they are reaching out to meet the needs of their parishioners and people in their community,” said William Enright, director of the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving at the Center. “We frequently hear about the experiences of larger congregations and how they are coping with economic challenges, while the story of average and smaller congregations often has been wrapped in silence. This study breaks that silence.”