Religious Influences on Giving
26 November 2013 at 10:08 am
New US research demonstrates that most household giving goes to organisations with religious ties, whether to congregations or to religiously identified charitable organisations.
The report Connected to Give: Faith Communities is by research organisation Jumpstart and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
The report found that donations to religious congregations represent about 40 per cent of household giving across America. This is giving for primarily religious activity or spiritual development.
In addition, it found that there are many Not for Profit organisations pursuing other purposes, from basic needs and health care to the environment and international aid, but which also have religious identities.
“Approximately one-third of household giving goes to these religiously identified Not for Profits, including those linked to specific denominations or rooted in religious traditions, such as Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army, World Vision or Jewish federations,” the report said.
The report finds that when giving to other charitable organisations that have religious identities is taken into account, in addition to giving to congregations, nearly three-quarters of all US household giving — 73 percent — goes to organisations that have religious ties of some type.
“This groundbreaking study makes clear that religious influences are important to the giving decisions of Americans from a spectrum of religious traditions and spirituality. It’s like putting on 3D glasses,” report co-author Dr Shawn Landres said.
“In addition to looking at congregations, when we also look at the religious identity of the organisation and the religious or spiritual orientation of the donor, it turns out that a majority of Americans contribute to organisations with religious ties and a majority of Americans cite religious commitments as key motivations for their giving.”
Landres is CEO and research director of Jumpstart, a philanthropic research and design lab, which collaborated with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and GBA Strategies on the survey of 4,862 Americans households of various religious traditions. The report by Jumpstart and Lilly Family School of Philanthropy researchers provides breakdowns by age, household income, motivations, and purposes of giving across the five largest American religious groups — Black Protestant, Evangelical Protestant, Jewish, Mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic — as well as Americans not affiliated with a religious tradition.
The report focuses on three dimensions that influence whether a person makes a gift to a specific organisation: 1) the purpose of the organisation, 2) the identity of the organisation, specifically whether it does or does not have a religious identity and 3) donor orientation, that is, whether or not individuals consider themselves to be religious or spiritual.
“Much of what has previously been thought of one-dimensionally as giving to ‘secular’ purposes actually goes to religiously identified organisations,” Professor of economics and philanthropic studies at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and report co-author, Dr Mark Ottoni-Wilhelm, said.
Ottoni-Wilhelm stressed that innovative research methods allowed for a clearer picture of the way religious ties shape the giving landscape.
“The implications are clear for all types of charitable organisations, whether or not they have religious ties: they should pay attention to the religious orientations of their donors,” he said.
“Religiously identified organisations may wish to find ways to connect with non-religious donors who share an interest in their charitable purpose. And organisations that think of themselves as non-sectarian may find that many of their donors have strong faith-based motivations to support their work.”
Most Americans (80 per cent) identify themselves as religious or spiritual. Among Americans who give, more than half (55 per cent) say their commitment to religion is an important or very important motivation for charitable giving, the study found.
Giving to religiously identified organisations plays a larger role in some sub-sectors than in others, the study found. For example, among people who give to organisations that meet basic human needs 66 per cent do at least some of their giving to religiously identified basic needs organisations, but among people who give to environmental organisations, 42 per cent do at least some of their giving to religiously identified environmental organisations.
"In the current Not for Profit environment, where national conversations rightly are focused on outcomes and impact, our findings are an important reminder that identities and values play a critical role in shaping charitable choices," President of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies and co-founder of Connected to Give, Dr Jeffrey Solomon, said.
"Donors keep both in mind when they decide where to make their gifts.”
Other key findings:
While most dollars given go to organisations with religious ties, Americans give to organisations that are not religiously identified at a similar rate as they give to organisations with religious ties (congregations and religiously identified charitable organisations) — 53 per cent and 55 per cent, respectively;
For most charitable purposes, donors make contributions to both religiously identified organisations and organisations that are not religiously identified, rather than only to one type or the other;
Americans affiliated with different religious traditions give at similar rates to each other.
Connected to Give: Faith Communities was written by Melanie McKitrick, Mark Ottoni-Wilhelm and Amir Hayat of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and J. Shawn Landres of Jumpstart.
Connected to Give is funded and led by a national collaborative consortium of more than a dozen independent, family and community foundations and organisations.
Connected to Give: Faith Communities is available for download here.