Does Religion Influence Philanthropy?
I was in church last Sunday and thought about the act and importance of giving. I feel good when I give and help others. I was curious as to the impact of religion on philanthropy.
The article, “New Study: Three-Quarters of American Giving Goes to Religion,” noted that Americans give a lot of money to religion—but not in the ways we usually think. In the findings by the National Study of American Religious Giving, 73 percent of American giving goes to religious-related organizations. This study captured a wider swath of religious giving—not just to church entities, but also to religious-affiliated organizations, like Catholic Charities and The Salvation Army. The study pointed out that religious people give because of religion to religion.
The article, “The Christian Act of Giving Reasons to Give,” noted that the Biblical reasons why you should give include:
- Give to help fellow believers.
- Give to help the poor.
- Give to help family.
- Give to support the Church, its leaders and its ministry.
- Give to gain rewards, whether eternal or on this earth.
In the article, “10 Essential Truths about Christian Giving,” notes four New Testament Bible passages. These are Matthew 6:1-4, 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, 2 Corinthians 8:9-15 and 2 Corinthians 9:6-7.
- The Lord Jesus expects and requires us to give.
- The Lord Jesus wants us to give for the right reasons.
- The Lord Jesus wants us to practice benevolent or charitable giving.
- The Lord Jesus reminds us that our giving is ultimately to the all-seeing heavenly Father.
- The Bible teaches that Christian giving is an act of worship.
- The Bible teaches that Christian giving should be done in light of the incarnation.
- The Bible teaches that Christian giving should be done in accordance with our means.
- The Bible teaches that the liberality of God’s blessings to us is connected to the liberality of our Christian giving.
- The Bible teaches that Christian giving must be willing, free giving.
- The Bible teaches that Christian giving ought to be cheerful giving.
When you examine the USA Giving total 2016 contributions of $390.05 billion in the U.S. by recipient category, religion makes up 32 percent of this total and saw increases in contributions over 2015 totals.
Religious people are more generous than non-believers when it comes to giving to charity, according to research complied by the BBC. This research found that people who profess a religious belief are significantly more likely to give to charity than non-believers. Sikhs and Jews emerged as the most likely to share their worldly goods with a good cause, just ahead of Christians, Hindus and Muslims. These results came from a poll of over 3,000 people of those with or without faith.
The Rev. Dr. Martyn Atkins, general Secretary of the Methodist Church in Britain said, every act of generosity, however small, bears witness to a generous and loving God and helps to change the world for good. This research, and many other studies, promotes the concept that religion is a powerful philanthropic motivator.
The “Giving USA Special Report of Giving to Religion,” which was released in late 2017, was researched and written by the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving at the Indiana University School on Philanthropy. It noted that religiously affiliated people are more likely to donate even though affiliation with a religion and attendance at religious services are both decreasing in the United States.
Key findings from this report include:
- Frequent attendance at religious services is linked to both the likelihood of giving to religion and making larger gifts to religion.
- People who are religiously affiliated are more likely to make a charitable donation of any kind, whether to a religious congregation or to another type of charitable organization.
- Donors to religious causes between the ages of 40 and 64 give the largest amounts, giving an average of $2,505 per year.
- Religiously affiliated households give as much or more to other types of charities as non-religiously affiliated households do.
Research by this organization and other organizations will continue to determine what impact religion and other attributes have on influencing individual charitable behavior. I for one believe my religion influences my giving and Easter always reinforces my belief system in a loving and charitable way. Whatever your motivation, please give and make a difference in someone’s life!
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, educator and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 10 years and has had the CFRE designation for the last 26 years. He has also been a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals for over 35 years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division plus Adjunct Professor for Olivet Nazarene University. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.