Church Trends and Statistics

Annual Report Shows Americans Gave Over $427 Billion to Charity in 2018

In June, Giving USA Foundation, a public service initiative of The Giving Institute, released its latest annual report: Giving USA 2019: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2018. According to researchers, 2018 was a complex year for giving due to a number of economic and policy factors that went into effect last year. The results of these changing factors led to mixed numbers for the year’s data.

Rick Dunham, chair of Giving USA Foundation and CEO of Dunham + Company, said American individuals and organizations continued showing generous support to charitable institutions, though the 2018 total did not surpass record-breaking levels of 2017 when adjusted for inflation.

“The environment for giving in 2018 was far more complex than most years, with shifts in tax policy and the volatility of the stock market,” Dunham said in a press release announcing the report. “This is particularly true for the wide range of households that comprise individual giving and provide over two-thirds of all giving.”

An explanation of this year’s atypical giving patterns and their possible causes is offered in the press release. One shift noted as important in the 2018 giving landscape is the decreased number of individuals and households who itemized deductions on their tax returns. According to the release, this shift came in response to the federal tax policy change that doubled the standard deduction. Research suggests that the number of households that itemized deductions may have dropped from 45 million in 2016 to less than 20 million in 2018. This policy may have reduced an incentive for charitable giving, according to researchers.

Here are the highlights of the report, taken from the press release:

Highlights about Charitable Giving by Source

  • Giving by foundations had a record-breaking year, reaching its highest-ever dollar amount even when adjusted for inflation, and growing to its largest share (18 percent) of total giving to date in 2018.
  • Giving by individuals decreased as a percentage of total giving in 2018 to 68 percent (down from 70 percent in 2017), despite achieving its third-highest total dollar amount on record, adjusted for inflation.
  • Giving by corporations experienced solid growth in 2018. This type of giving is highly responsive to changes in corporate pre-tax dollars and GDP, and its year-over-year trend lines tend to be more turbulent as a result.
  • Giving by bequest did not keep pace with inflation.

The Numbers for 2018 Charitable Giving by Source

  • Giving by individuals totaled an estimated $292.09 billion, declining 1.1 percent in 2018 (a decrease of 3.4 percent, adjusted for inflation).
  • Giving by foundations increased by an estimated 7.3 percent, to $75.86 billion in 2018 (an increase of 4.7 percent, adjusted for inflation). Data on foundation giving are provided by Candid (formerly known as the Foundation Center).
  • Giving by bequest totaled an estimated $39.71 billion in 2018, remaining flat with a 0.0 percent increase from 2017 (a 2.3 percent decline, adjusted for inflation).
  • Giving by corporations is estimated to have increased by 5.4 percent in 2018, totaling $20.05 billion (an increase of 2.9 percent, adjusted for inflation).

Highlights about 2018 Giving to Charitable Organizations

  • Charitable sectors saw uneven growth in 2018 in current dollars, with two categories of recipient organizations growing, three categories staying relatively flat, and four categories declining.
  • Some of the categories of charitable organizations that had declines in 2018, including giving to education and giving to foundations, experienced strong growth in 2017, even when adjusted for inflation. It is not unusual for strong growth in giving one year to be followed by slower growth or a decline in the following year, especially in terms of inflation-adjusted dollars.
  • Giving to the public-society benefit subsector decreased in 2018 after eight years of consecutive growth. Similarly, giving to religion declined in 2018 after six years of slow growth and one year of flat growth in inflation-adjusted dollars in 2017.
  • Giving to human services, health, and arts, culture and humanities organizations stayed relatively flat in 2018 in current dollars and did not keep pace with inflation.
  • International affairs and environment and animal organizations were the two types of recipient organizations that experienced substantial growth in giving in 2018.

The Numbers for 2018 Charitable Giving to Recipients

  • Giving to religion is estimated to have declined by 1.5 percent (a decrease of 3.9 percent adjusted for inflation), receiving $124.52 billion in contributions.
  • Giving to education is estimated to have declined by 1.3 percent (decreasing 3.7 percent adjusted for inflation), to $58.72 billion.
  • Giving to human services is estimated to have stayed relatively flat, decreasing by 0.3 percent (a decrease of 2.7 percent adjusted for inflation), totaling $51.54 billion.
  • Giving to foundations is estimated to have decreased by 6.9 percent (declining by 9.1 percent adjusted for inflation) to $50.29 billion, based on data provided by Candid.
  • Giving to health organizations is estimated to have had flat growth of 0.1 percent (a decline of 2.3 percent adjusted for inflation) at $40.78 billion.
  • Giving to public-society benefit organizations decreased by an estimated 3.7 percent (decreasing 6.0 percent adjusted for inflation), to $31.21 billion.
  • Giving to arts, culture, and humanities is estimated to have stayed relatively flat, increasing 0.3 percent (declining 2.1 percent adjusted for inflation) to $19.49 billion.
  • Giving to international affairs is estimated to have increased by 9.6 percent (an increase of 7.0 percent adjusted for inflation), to $22.88 billion.
  • Giving to environment and animal organizations is estimated to have increased 3.6 percent (an increase of 1.2 percent adjusted for inflation), to $12.70 billion.
  • Giving to individuals, which made up 2 percent of total giving, is estimated to have declined 2.6 percent (4.9 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars), to $9.06 billion. The bulk of these donations are in-kind gifts of medications to patients in need, made through the patient assistance programs of pharmaceutical companies’ operating foundations.

According to the report, unallocated giving was $6.53 billion in 2018. This amount can be considered the difference between giving by source and use in a particular year. It includes the difference between itemized deductions by individuals (and households) carried over from previous years. The tax year in which a gift is claimed by the donor (carried over) and the year when the recipient organization reports it as revenue (the year in which it is received) may be different.

To learn more about giving trends in 2018 and order a copy of the 2019 report, visit www.givingusa.org.

New Poll Shows American Attitudes Toward Clergy

On July 8, the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research (AP-NORC) released the results of a poll conducted in May 2019 that surveyed Americans regarding their views on clergy and religious leaders, their role in U.S. society today, and the influence they have on individuals’ day-to-day lives.

The results reveal a general divide between the church-going public and other people of faith, according to the release announcing the results.

“Having a religious affiliation of any kind has a significant impact on attitudes toward religious leaders,” it reads. “Americans who identify with a religion are more likely to believe clergy have a positive impact on society … Frequency of church attendance also has a significant impact on attitudes among those with a religious affiliation.”

Here are the highlights of the report:

  • 55 percent of adults said clergy members and religious leaders have a positive impact on society.
  • 34 percent describe them as extremely or very trustworthy.
  • 47 percent of respondents said they would welcome the influence of clergy in their life.
  • 76 percent of Americans who identify with a religion are more likely to believe clergy have a positive impact on society.
  • Among those who have a religious affiliation, 30 percent say they consult a clergy member often or sometimes when making an important decision. Among those who attend church at least two to three times a week, this number jumps to 49 percent.
  • 55 percent of respondents said clergy members or religious leaders have had a lot or some influence in their life and 45 percent say they’ve had not much or no influence at all.
  • Less than half (47 percent) said they want clergy members to have a lot or some influence in their life. 52 percent of parents with children under 18 said they want clergy members to have a lot or some influence in their child’s life.
  • 24 percent said they consult a consult a clergy member often or sometimes when making important decisions. 75 percent they consult a clergy member rarely or never.
  • Among those with a religion, people who regularly attend services are over three times as likely (49 percent) to seek consult from clergy members as those who attend less frequently (16 percent).
  • Among those who have consulted a clergy member or religious leader when making important decisions, 43 percent said it was extremely or very valuable, 40 percent said it was moderately valuable, and 16 percent said it wasn’t very valuable or had no value at all.
  • 21 percent said they seek advice from clergy when it comes to volunteering or giving charitable donations, or concerning their relationships.
  • Other less popular categories respondents said they were “extremely or very likely” to consult with clergy about included child rearing (18 percent of parents), their child’s education (16 percent of parents), medical decisions (8 percent), career or work life (8 percent), family panning (8 percent), political activity (7 percent), financial decision (7 percent), and sex and sexuality (7 percent).
  • Among those who have a religious affiliation, about eight in 10 said they support their faith allowing women and people who are divorced to become members of their clergy.
  • However, respondents who attend church frequently (at least two to three times a month) were less likely to agree with this; 74 percent of frequent attenders said women should be allowed in the clergy compared to 84 percent of those with a religion who attend religious services less often.
  • 55 percent of respondents said gay men should be allowed in the clergy. The divide between frequent church attenders and other respondents was wider on this idea with 37 percent of frequent attenders agreeing, compared to 67 percent of respondents who attend religious services less often,
  • Researchers found that respondents with higher levels of education were more likely to say women, gay people, and divorcees should be allowed to become a member of the clergy.
  • Women and adults under age 60 were also more likely to say gay men should be allowed.
  • The results indicate that religious Americans are split on hot-button issues like sex before marriage, same-sex marriage, and abortion. 54 percent of respondents said a person who believes that sex before marriage is morally acceptable should be able to become a member of the clergy, 53 percent said the same about someone who believes same-sex marriage should be legal, and 48 percent said a person who believes abortion should be legal should be able to become a member of the clergy.
  • Like the ideas of allowing women, gay men, and divorces into the clergy, those who attend religious services more often were less likely to approve of any of these ideas than infrequent attendees.
  • Religious Americans younger than 50 were more likely than older religious adults to agree with allowing people with the above beliefs to become members of the clergy.
  • Older religious Americans were more likely to welcome the influence of religious leaders in their lives. 60 percent of respondents age 60 or older said they want clergy members or religious leaders to have “a lot or some” influence in their lives, double the number of respondents ages 18 to 29 who agreed.

The report goes on share findings of how these attitudes toward clergy and religious leaders correlate with Americans’ partisanship and religiosity.

The nationwide poll was conducted using the AmeriSpeak Panel®, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 1,137 adults.

For the full report sharing the findings from the poll, visit www.apnorc.org.

LifeWay Finds Churchgoers Split on Existence of More Sexual Abuse by Pastors

In a poll of 1,815 Protestant churchgoers via an online survey, LifeWay Research recently found that in the wake of the continued sexual abuse scandals surrounding the church, most remain confident in their churches’ handling of sexual misconduct and abuse.

The 2019 Sexual Misconduct and Churchgoers Study was conducted by LifeWay Research and sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources. Here are the highlights of the results:

  • 32 percent of respondents said they believe many more Protestant pastors have sexually abused children or teens than has been currently exposed. 37 percent disagree with this belief, while 31 percent said they don’t know.
  • 29 percent of respondents said they believe there are many more undiscovered instances of Protestant pastors who have sexually assaulted adults. On this, 41 percent disagreed, and 30 percent said they don’t know.
  • Only 4 percent said they know someone attending their church who has sexually assaulted someone. Another 4 percent said they know someone attending their church who has sexually abused a child, but it has not yet come to light.
  • Nearly half of the respondents (44 percent) said they have been victims of sexual misconduct, including unwanted sexual joking, unsolicited sexual messages, unwanted compliments and inappropriate glances. Of those respondents, 12 percent said the misconduct occurred at church.
  • Among all the respondents, one percent said they experienced at least one of these types of misconduct from the pastor. 2 percent said it was from a staff member other than the pastor, 2 percent said from a church leader not on staff, and 3 percent said they experienced misconduct from another attendee.
  • A majority of respondents said their church would respond to someone who had experienced sexual abuse, sexual assault, or rape with respect (73 percent), sympathy (70 percent), privacy (63 percent), and protection (60 percent).
  • A small minority of respondents said they believe their church would ignore the person who shared their experience (2 percent), see them as an attention-seeker (2 percent), or see them as partly to blame (2 percent).
  • 72 percent of respondents said they consider their congregation at least somewhat prepared to help someone who has experienced sexual assault. 20 percent said they aren’t sure if their church is somewhat prepared or unprepared.
  • One in five of the respondents said their church is at least somewhat prepared to protect children from sexual abuse in ministry programs. 14 percent said they are unsure.
  • 89 percent of respondents said someone who has experienced sexual abuse a child or teenager would find healing at their church, on which 4 percent disagreed.
  • 87 percent of respondents said they believe their church is likely to report suspicions of abuse or neglect to the appropriate authorities if “sexually inappropriate things happened within the church.” 7 percent said they believe church leaders would try to cover it up.
  • A small number of respondents said advances have affected their church attendance: six percent said they attended less frequently because of advances from attendees. Five percent said they stopped attending a church because they felt sexual misconduct was not taken seriously, while 4 percent said they stopped attending because they didn’t feel safe from sexual misconduct.
  • One in ten of respondents who said unwanted sexual joking was directed at them said it happened at church. 10 percent of those who received unwanted compliments that implied the person viewed them sexually also said it happened at church. The same was said by 7 percent of those who received unwanted pictures or sexual advances via text or direct message, and 8 percent of female respondents who experienced prolonged glances or staring at their chest.
  • When asked if they received compliments that implied the person viewed them sexually, 11 percent of the respondents said they heard such remarks as a child. 17 percent said they heard them as a teenager. When asked from where they knew the person or persons giving the sexually-insinuating comments, 17 percent said they knew them from church.
  • Around one in six respondents (17 percent) said some attendees express physical greetings “in ways that seem to go beyond a simple gesture.”
  • When asked how the church compares to other environments where they socialize with people when it comes to encountering sexually inappropriate comments, 75 percent of respondents said the church is a better environment. 2 percent said the church is worse, while 11 percent said it is the same as other places and 12 percent said they aren’t sure.

To learn more about the findings of this poll, visit lifewayresearch.com/2019/05/21/churchgoers-split-on-existence-of-more-sexual-abuse-by-pastors.

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