A Celebration of Faith-Based Giving this Holiday Season

During this season of giving, Americans have once again demonstrated their generous spirit. Giving Tuesday, the annual day of giving, inspired Americans to donate over $3.1 billion this year, a 15% increase over 2021. As many Americans celebrate the miracles of Christmas and Hanukkah this December, the Roundtable is applauding the vibrancy of faith-inspired philanthropy, which helps strengthen communities.

“This is my first time on a plane,” said a 40-year man who had recently been released from prison.

“I’m taking a video for my mom since this is the first time I’ve seen the ocean,” said a middle-aged man.

“I’ve never seen the Rockefeller Christmas tree. …That doesn’t feel like my New York,” said a Bronx-native high school student.

These are real quotes from people I’ve met over the last few years that illustrate some disparities in opportunity and experience in communities across America. They serve as a reminder of the importance philanthropy plays in propelling access to equal opportunity for all Americans, helping to improve lives and supporting thriving communities.

For each donor, the inspiration for giving varies. In a recent Philanthropy Roundtable panel at our Annual Meeting, moderator Dr. Thad Austin of the Duke University Divinity School asked the audience what inspires their giving. Not surprisingly, faith was one of the most significant drivers of generosity. Faith traditions and teachings related to the tithe (giving 10% of income to faith and other charitable causes) help guide and direct giving patterns for people of faith.

According to an Indiana University Lilly Family School Philanthropy Panel Study, the total average annual giving for those with a faith affiliation is $1,599.78, versus $784 for those not affiliated with a religion. A new study from the American Bible Society also demonstrates that faith is clearly a key inspiration for philanthropic activity, with Americans who are “Scripture Engaged” giving $145 billion to charitable causes in 2021.

Moreover, research from Giving USA shows contributions to faith-based organizations make up the largest subsector for giving, demonstrating the major role faith-based charity plays in the sector. Our recent Roundtable blog on the topic also cites multiple studies that note the correlation between faith and higher rates of volunteerism. And a report from the Bridgespan Group in 2021 shows faith-inspired organizations are playing essential roles in their communities, providing $2 of every $5, or 40%, on safety net services in six major representative cities. 

For donor Kelly Hackett of the Hackett Family Foundation, her “why” for giving is inspired by her Catholic faith and family. “It is the common thread that makes all of our giving make sense,” she said in a “Doers to Donors” interview with Philanthropy Roundtable President and CEO Elise Westhoff. “Our Catholic faith is the foundation for all of our values in life. And it’s … where we get the perspective that it’s critical to share our blessings with all those in the community.”

For me, my faith and family inspire me to want to give the Bronx-native high schooler the chance to visit the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, to provide the opportunity for a formerly incarcerated man to board a flight for the first time, and to help a middle-aged man to see the beauty of the ocean.

My hope this holiday season is that our individual and collective generosity will help to improve lives. Whatever inspires your giving, we at the Philanthropy Roundtable encourage you to be generous this holiday season and lend a hand to those in need.

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