Where Is Giving to the Church Going in 2018?
In January 2017, Dr. David King wrote an article titled “The Future of Philanthropy Looks Bright: 2017-2018 Charitable Growth Predictions.” He wrote on behalf of the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, which is part of Indiana University’s Lilly School of Philanthropy.
There, he noted that charitable giving was expected to grow by 3.6% in 2017 and 3.8% in 2018. As year-end numbers for 2017 roll in, there’s nothing to suggest that charitable giving will do anything but increase—even if modestly. Barring any significant world disruption of war or terrorism, the economy and the stock market both suggest that positive growth is afoot.
But within King’s report are some noteworthy insights:
- Giving continues to grow for education, healthcare, and public society benefit. While education and healthcare do not come as surprises and are well understood, the public society benefit is defined broadly as things like community development, human rights causes, and broad umbrella groups like United Way, Jewish federations, and donor-advised funds.
- Donor-advised funds continue to have a growing and broad usage. That growth is too significant to ignore. (My own commentary is that churches should seek to embrace donor-advised-fund giving as regular recurring gifts instead of seeking to force giving through their own online portals.)
- While religious giving is the largest sector of overall giving, its rate of growth is slowing. Future projections may find it losing ground compared to other areas of giving.
King notes that religious organizations should think and act more like traditional non-profits. Here are some insights:
- Understand that relationships with donors matter. It’s important to build relationships with donors, understand their interests and passions, and look for connections. It is not enough to expect that the institution of the church trumps relationship.
- Make the relationship simple and easy. Donors want the easy button. They want to be able to give easily: (Note my comment about donor-advised funds above.) They want organizations to match their own sophistication.
And similarly, they need to be able to get involved easily. Is there an “onboarding” pathway for the church?
- Engage the larger philanthropic universe. In addition to the insight about donor-advised funds, King notes that donors are more savvy with a variety of interests. Does the church reflect those broader interests? Or are the mission efforts of the church the same old thing?
- Address the why. Most churches are still reluctant to address the why of giving, with money often being a taboo topic. But as churches address the why of giving, they are more likely to connect with donors and advance their overall mission.
As you look at 2018, what are your own insights about where giving is going?