WASHINGTON (RNS) Americans are slowly pulling themselves out of a charitable slump — except when it comes to religious groups.

That takeaway from the new Giving USA report, perhaps the most-read annual study on philanthropy, shows a slight downturn for churches and other religious organizations against an improving charity landscape.

American individuals, groups, foundations and corporations gave $335 billion in 2013 — a 3 percent increase from 2012 (adjusted for inflation). It’s the fourth consecutive year in which giving rose after taking a beating during the recession that officially ended in 2009.

RNS-graphic_charitable-giving-2013_061714_LowRes

“2013 U.S. Charitable Giving By Cause” RNS graphic by Tiffany McCallen.


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

But religious groups saw donations drop 1.6 percent from 2012 to 2013. That contrasts to healthy jumps in education (7.4 percent), the arts and humanities (6.3 percent) and environmental and animal groups (6 percent), according to the study released Tuesday (June 17), which Giving USA produced with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Behind the sad stats for religious groups, experts say, is  Americans’ declining interest in religious institutions.

“Giving to religion represents primarily giving to houses of worship,”  said Rick Dunham, CEO of Dallas-based Dunham+Company, a fundraising consulting company that mostly works with Christian ministries. “There has been a growing percentage of Americans with no religious affiliation, as well as a decrease in both church attendance and membership.”

According to a 2012 Pew Research Center study, about one in five Americans say they have no formal religious affiliation.

While charitable giving overall has increased in recent years, donations to religious groups have stagnated.

While charitable giving overall has increased in recent years, donations to religious groups have declined slightly. Creative Commons image by Mike Shoup

But Dunham, who serves on the editorial review board of Giving USA, also noted that many religiously oriented charities are often counted in other sectors, such as education and human services. “This is a bit of a complex picture,” he said, because giving to religion “is both declining … as well as shifting from houses of worship to religiously affiliated charities that are counted in other sectors.”

Still, the religious sector continues to collect a greater proportion of total charitable giving — 31 percent — than any other, according to the report. The next largest share of the philanthropic pie went to education, with 16 percent of donors’ dollars.

The Giving USA study drew on many government and private groups for data, including the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Census Bureau.

KRE/AMB END MARKOE

20 Comments

  1. Giving to religious houses of worship is not charitable giving. We’ve seen time and again that a tiny fraction of that money goes to actual charities, while nearly all of it goes to the house of worship itself – salaries to paid employees, the building, etc. That’s the same as giving to any other business, and obviously not charity. Should we call fees paid to motivational speakers “charity”? Or call money paid for other entertainment, like movies “charity”? Of course not. Calling money given to these businesses “charity” simply because of the name they give their business (“Church”) hurts actual measures of real charity, and hence the real charities themselves. It is yet another example of Christian privilege in our society that some of us let people lie publically by calling money given to their church businesses “charity”. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2012/08/22/are-atheists-being-stingy-when-it-comes-to-charity/

    • Read some of Ram Cnaan’s scholary books or some journal articles from the peer-reviewed Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. Religious organizations do a lot of really great work.

      Atheist bloggers obviously like to downplay the important role religious organizations play in the non-profit and charitable sector, but the American welfare system would become unsustainable without the work religious organizations do.

      • The data doesn’t support your statement. Sure, chuches do perform some good work – at incredible expense. Charitywatch helps people tell real charities from scams. A real charity will deliver 75% or more of each dollar donated to actually helping people. For instance, the Red Cross is at about 92%, and gets a good rating. When “charities” start just taking more of the money themselves (as salaries), they get a lower rating. For instance, when the % drops to around 60%, they get a “C” grade, and below that they are considered more of a scam than a charity.
        So – where to typical churches stand? What is there number? One clue is that they usually won’t tell you. That’s a sure fire sign of a scam, not a charity. However, even with their secrecy, you can find estimates, and it appears to usually be between around 16% to 2%. Scam. Here is some data, plenty more is out there.

        http://www.charitywatch.org/criteria.html

        https://www.eccu.org/resources/advisorypanel/2013/surveyreports20

        So Lles, Daniel – it’s not “my definition”. It’s simply the numbers. Religions aren’t charities, and if compared to charities, they come our clearly as scams. You can say what you like and what you don’t, but when it comes down to real money helping real people, the more money you give to a church instead of a real charity, the more you hurt those in need.

        • You’re assuming you are in a position to define what I should consider a beneficial work for people in need….meaning a charity. You are not in such a position.

          Nor is a website. Only I can determine if I should donate my money based on my own judgement of the merits of the work relative to the need.

          I can foresee you despirately want religious groups classified as business, so you can tax them into non-existence, that being the ultimate goal of the liberal animals. I’m certain it would fill you with glee, the thought of a slow tax death.

          Such a scenario would literally just create a underground market for supporting religious works. Just like gov intervention always does in any other interference with human activity. You can’t stop it. But you will still try because you hate it.

          • Lles, I’m not assuming anything – because neither of us are in a position to redefine anything. I’m going by the numbers – simple, objective data. “benficial” means real help gets to people – and when almost none of it gets to those in need, then that’s simply not helping people, whether you like it or not.

            The website charitywatch uses publically availble, objective data to show which charitieis are real, and which are scams. They certainly do show which actually help people. You, yourself, cannot accurately judge how helpful a charity is without seeing (using real data) how much help they actually provide – regardless of whether or not they give you warm fuzzies.

            Your foreseer is broken. My interest is not in unfairly taxing anything out of existence, but simply promoting honesty. Honesty. That’s what matters, and that gives a level playing field.

            Why do you think I”m liberal? Just because I promote honesty?

          • @Lles Nats,

            “Just like gov intervention always….”

            Religion fuels your hatred of everything. Knee jerk dogma, as if you never thought for yourself for 5 minutes.

            Ever consider looking at evidence or data or…I don’t know…Information?

  2. Great news.

    Giving money to churches and temples must end.
    Religion is a scam.

    Hopefully the Pastors will figure this out
    and leave this nonsense behind them, too.

  3. Its just another data point confirming what we already know to be true. No god leaves empty space in terms of guidance that can only be filled by secular thought.

    A society of equally free individuals cannot rule themselves. Its not possible. It only results in choas. A totalitarian system with a single privileged group of rulemakers is the only result. Good thing then both liberals and conservatives love massive government.

    • Lles Nats,

      What?
      “A society of equally free individuals cannot rule themselves.”

      So how long have you been living this Treasonous philosophy?
      If you want a Theocracy go to Iran, or Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.

      Cause America is government ostensibly “of the people, for the people and BY THE PEOPLE”.

      • If you believe that for the people by the people stuff, you are obvioisly defenseless against all forms of marketing. Thats all that is any more. Marketing.

        • The concept is this. Imagine a world with just two people born into it. They have equal right to claim what is around them by birth, equal opportunity to use what is around them and their own skill set, etc, to advance their life and attain their own goal of self determination. Its natural law.

          At some point they will clash. Someone will get greedy, although the concept of greedy does not exist in our two person scenario yet as equal claim means infinite claim for both if they both choose to define it that way.

          So to resolve the clash, one must submit and concede his claim to the other or they must both agree to submit their infinite claims to finite ones they both agree to. If they choose the first resolution, one has a lesser claim via his voluntary subordination than the other and presto-chango you have a unbalanced society.

          Now think about that scenario with billions of partipants simultaneously. Thats where we are. Disequilibrium can be the only result. Self determination according to natural law is impossible, because by the machanics of our physical nature itself, someone must make a lesser claim.

          • Bleak, narrow and false dichotomy.

            You make claims and can’t support any of them.

  4. Less religious funding is a bad thing and will result in fewer people receiving the goods and services they need.

    If you doubt the good work religious organizations do, read some of the scholarly work by University of Pennsylvania Professor Ram Cnaan (e.g. The Other Philadelphia Story, etc.) or some of the more recent scholarly articles on religion and mental health or religion and volunteerism.

    If you get all your news from blogs you will end up with a distorted view of religion’s true impact in the world.

    • @Daniel,

      Please stop selling this myth of ‘Charities’ being good!

      Religion uses people’s suffering to expand and grow – it is a parasite to humanity not a help.

      Hamas, Hezbollah, the Red Crescent, Al Queda, Parties of God, Nation of Islam, Zionist Communes – they all have soup kitchens and missionaries. “Religious Charities” are a marketing operation and nothing more.

      PEOPLE DO THE GOOD WORKS – not religion.
      Giving food in return for listening to a sermon full of lies is not ‘good’.

      Catholic Charities has done spectacularly evil things like denying condoms to AIDS infected husbands and wives in Africa all the while, KNOWING that the condoms would have prevented AIDS.
      20 MILLION PEOPLE DIED THANKS TO CATHOLIC CHARITIES IN AFRICA.

      While churches waste billions of dollars on bibles and superstition
      THESE ATHEIST ORGANIZATIONS
      and various NON-RELIGIOUS
      organizations are saving the world :

      Foundation Beyond Belief
      United Children’s Fund,
      Doctors Without Borders
      Tanzanian Children’s Fund.
      Goodwill Industries,
      Bill Gates Foundation,
      Warren Buffet Foundation,
      Oxfam International,
      Rotary International,
      SEED foundation,
      National Campaign to prevent Teen Pregnancy,
      Treatment IN Action Campaign,
      US Military Assoc. of Atheists and Freethinkers,
      Plan USA,
      etc…

      Religion is so over-rated it is disgusting.

      • If charities being good is a myth, as you claim, then americas welfare state via transfer payments is a tremendous evil we should demand be abolished right away.

        • @Lles Nats,

          I said the claim that Religious Charity ARE good is a myth. They do too much that is bad to be called ‘good’.

          Charity is when you give someone something
          without expecting anything in return.

          Investment is when you spend $8000 for four years for a child
          to get a public school education. Then, as a result he goes to college or trade school, becomes fully employed and pays taxes of $30,000 per year for the following 40 years totaling $1,200,000 gain on an 8,000 investment.

          IGNORANT, RIGHT WING WACKOS think this is a bad deal!
          They’d like their Christian morals to comfort them
          in their ignorance – and this breathtaking ignorance is why American continues to spiral out of control with poor people knowing less, learning less and DOING LESS for our country.

          YOUR type of small-mindedness is yet another price the USA
          pays for elevating FAITH in JESUS above critical thinking skills!

          Just shows you, with God NOTHING is possible.

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