Good News for Religious Giving

Most donors say the pandemic won’t stop them from giving to religious causes, and some of them will even step up their giving. According to a survey of donors by DickersonBakker, a consulting firm for nonprofits, 60 percent of donors to faith-based nonprofits plan to maintain their giving levels from last year in 2020, and 25 percent say they’ll give more. Fifteen percent say their giving will decrease. 

As churches and religious schools alike struggle to keep their lights on during the coronavirus pandemic, these findings bring good news. More than 90 percent of those surveyed—whose median donation was $20,000 per year—said they planned to keep giving to the same organizations, instead of focusing specifically on coronavirus-related causes. 

One group especially hard hit by the pandemic has been Catholic schools, more than 100 of which have shut down—or will close soon. Thanks to donor support, however, some are expanding. Partnership, a NYC-based network of private Catholic schools, is branching out to Cleveland, Ohio, this summer. “We have a very strong belief that the best way to achieve upward economic and social mobility is to get a high-quality education,” explains donor Nick Howley. 

The good news for students, congregants, and others served by religious organizations across the nation: Religious giving is steady. The bad news is that it’s not growing much. The latest Giving USA numbers reveal that while religious causes still inspire the majority of donations, they only grew 0.5 percent, adjusted for inflation, last year. But for religious groups that rely on charitable donations, financial support is more important than ever. 

“Our number-one priority at the moment is helping as many of these organizations as possible sustain themselves through the coronavirus crisis,” explains Eric Fingerhut, president of the Jewish Federations of North America. “Many groups have seen their revenue drop substantially, as community centers and schools have had to close their doors temporarily. Some have had expenses go up because more people are in need of services. Some are at risk of bankruptcy, of not being able to reopen when the all-clear comes. To lose, in one crisis moment, basic infrastructure that our community spent decades building would be a tragedy.”

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