Less Than One-third of Congregations Report Decline in Giving in First Half of 2009
Congregations responded to the recession in a wide variety of ways, from feeding the homeless and providing emergency cash assistance to those in need to hosting community gardens, offering support groups and networking events for the unemployed, helping with financial planning, and increasing partnerships with other community groups.
Some congregations fared better than others. “Growth congregations,” those where attendance and finances have been growing over the past five years, were more likely to report positive fundraising results. Congregations with $600,000 to $999,999 in revenue, weekly attendance of more than 300 people, younger congregants (average age under 50), and those reporting a higher average income of congregants (greater than $60,000) were more likely to report an increase in fundraising receipts.
“Survival congregations,” those where attendance and finances have dropped by more than 10 percent over the past five years, were more likely to report a decline in fundraising. Other congregations that were more likely to report a decrease included those with annual revenue of less than $150,000, weekly attendance of less than 100 people, older congregants (average age 61 or older), and those where the average income of congregants was less than $40,000.
“This is one of the first looks we have had into the economic realities faced by American congregations during a time of global financial crisis,” said Dr. James Wind, president of the Alban Institute. “We are pleased to have partnered in opening up a fascinating and complex story of national significance. The survey results demonstrate that local congregations, which we often take for granted and treat with misleading conventional wisdom, are much more dynamic, creative, and strong than many people think. Clearly, not all congregations are alike – that is one of the major discoveries of the survey. Some are clearly struggling to make ends meet. But many more – and this will be a surprise to many - are holding their own and growing during one of the toughest seasons in our national history. More than that, the survey reveals the great variety of ways they are ministering to an overextended nation.”