Giving to churches drops as donations to charities rise

AP Photo/San Antonio Express-News, Bob Owen

Charities in the US are benefitting from a return to pre-financial crisis levels but the same can't be said for the nation's churches, according to new figures out this week.

Research by Giving USA and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy found that Americans gave $335 billion to charity last year.

While that represents an increase of 3 per cent on the previous year when adjusted for inflation, giving to churches declined by 1.6 per cent.

Donations to churches now account for just under a third – 31 per cent – of giving by Americans. A decade ago they were the recipients of over half of Americans' annual giving.

While churches adjust to a drop in giving, the education sector enjoyed an increase in donations of 7.4 per cent adjusted for inflation and disaster relief efforts received $272 million in contributions.

Una Osili, director of research at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, told Forbes that giving to education, health, environmental and animal welfare organisations in particular "have shown robust giving patterns in recent years".

Gregg Carlson, chair of the Giving USA Foundation, told The Christian Post: "It's not that [churches] haven't had some years of increases," Carlson added, "but it is to say that religion is a smaller and smaller percentage of the philanthropic pie."

He was more positive about overall levels of giving: "It's the fourth straight year of an increase since the doldrums of the Great Recession. We really took a hit during the recession. Giving fell about 15 per cent during the recession. And so we've been climbing out of that point ever since."

Osili added: "Arts, culture, and humanities organisations, too, are seeing strong results as donors appear to be attempting to make up for the loss in funding to these organisations during the recession years."