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Faith and Philanthropy - International Experience

17 March 2003 at 12:03 pm
Staff Reporter
The Spring Research Forum sponsored by INDEPENDENT SECTOR was held in the US earlier this month to discuss faith and philanthropy.

Staff Reporter | 17 March 2003 at 12:03 pm


Faith and Philanthropy - International Experience
17 March 2003 at 12:03 pm

As the international debate continues on the role of faith-based agencies and institutions in the delivery of social services, hundreds of researchers, Not for Profit and religious leaders, foundation representatives and government officials joined the Spring Research Forum sponsored by INDEPENDENT SECTOR in the US earlier this month to discuss faith and philanthropy.

Forty researchers from the United States and elsewhere presented new research papers on this topic delving into the complexities in the faith-based debate to inform policy-makers, academics, and Not for Profit professionals.

Called The Role of Faith-Based Organisations in the Social Welfare System it explored the role of collaboration and competition for government funds; the effectiveness of faith-based organisations; and the strengths and weaknesses of religious congregations in social service delivery.

Independent Sector researchers, Christopher Toppe and Arthur Kirsch discussed the connection between charitable behaviour and giving to religion.

They say that in the US religious belief is without question one of the most important factors to influence levels of giving.

They say that up to 85% of givers to churches, temples and mosques also support secular organisations, providing three-quarters of the philanthropic support that these organisations receive.

Overall in the US, religion-giving households give 87.5% of all charitable contributions, averaging over $US2,100 in annual contributions to all causes.

The authors say that the influence of faith also extends to volunteering. Some 54% of those who regularly attend religious services volunteer, while only 32% of non-attendees volunteer.

UK researcher, Priya Lukka from the Institute of Volunteering Research told the Forum that in the past five years the UK government has become increasingly interested in how faith groups can be a key component to improve local neighbourhoods.

Lukka says recent research by her organisation found that faith is a motivator and forms the impetus for social capital, lending weight to the argument that faith communities are able to deliver and indeed create social capital.

As well, the research looked at cultural capital and found four main areas of social action: routine patterns of involvement; mutual aid; festival-based volunteering and disaster/cause-response action.

Lukka says faith communities are a force for change but there needs to be more awareness on how they are effectual.

In Australia figures from 2001 show that faith-based volunteers account for 17.7 percent of all volunteering, and faith-based households are more likely to donate money.

The Australian Community Survey and the National Church Life Surveys 2001 all provide evidence of high levels of wider community involvement by church goers. Being highly involved in church life does not inhibit wider community involvement. In fact, the reverse is true.

Church goers are more likely to be involved in many avenues of community service than Australians as a whole.
The Independent Sector is a Not for Profit, non-partisan coalition of more than 700 US organisations, foundations, and corporate philanthropy programs. Its mission is to promote, strengthen, and advance the philanthropic community to foster private initiative for the public good.

You can check out the papers delivered to the 2003 Spring Research Forum online at

If you would like to discuss the issues of faith and philanthropy why not join our on-line Forum at

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