Nearly three quarters of household charitable giving goes to organizations with religious ties, new study finds

RELIGION NEWS SERVICE/ Los Angeles — The new report Connected to Give: Faith Communities  demonstrates that nearly three-quarters of all U.S. household giving — 73 percent — goes to organizations with religious ties. The report, which for the first time takes into account donations to religiously identified charitable organizations alongside congregations, highlights the multidimensional nature of religion and giving in America.

“It’s like putting on 3D glasses,” said report co-author Dr. Shawn Landres, CEO and research director of Jumpstart, the philanthropic research and design lab spearheading Connected to Give. “In addition to looking at congregations, when we also look at the religious identity of the organization and the religious or spiritual orientation of the donor, it turns out that a majority of Americans contribute to organizations with religious ties and a majority of Americans cite religious commitments as key motivations for their giving.”

Donations to religious congregations — primarily for religious activity or spiritual development—represent about two-fifths of household giving nationally. In addition, there are many nonprofit organizations pursuing other purposes, such as basic needs, health care, or international aid, but which also have religious identities. Another one-third of household giving goes to these religiously identified nonprofits; examples include Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army, World Vision, or Jewish federations.

Jumpstart collaborated with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and GBA Strategies on two national surveys covering 4,862 American households. The report by Jumpstart and Indiana 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.

“Much of what has previously been thought of one-dimensionally as giving to ‘secular’ purposes actually goes to religiously identified organizations,” said report co-author Dr. Mark Ottoni-Wilhelm, professor of economics and philanthropic studies at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. He added that innovative research methods allowed for a clearer picture of the way religious ties shape the giving landscape.

The report focuses on three dimensions that influence whether a person makes a gift to a specific organization: 1) the purpose of the organization, 2) the identity of the organization, specifically whether it does or does not have a religious identity and 3) donor orientation — whether or not individuals consider themselves to be religious or spiritual.

“In the current nonprofit 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,” said Dr. Jeffrey R. Solomon, president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies and co-founder of Connected to Give. “Donors keep both in mind when they decide where to make their gifts,” he added.

Connected to Give — which to date has produced three reports with at least three more in the pipeline — is funded and led by a national collaborative consortium of more than a dozen independent, family and community foundations and organizations. In addition to Landres and Wilhelm, the authors of Connected to Give: Faith Communities include Indiana’s Melanie A. McKitrick and Amir D. Hayat.

Connected to Give: Faith Communities will also be the centerpiece of  Faith+GivingTuesday+SocialGood on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013 in Los Angeles. Jumpstart will convene philanthropic, nonprofit and religious leaders to explore the report’s broader implications for religion and giving. Scheduled 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. PST at the USC Caruso Catholic Center, the program will be livestreamed. Media credentials available via the contact above.

Jumpstart is a 501(c)(3) philanthropic research & design lab based in Los Angeles whose unique combination of research, convenings and funding enables creative changemakers — philanthropists and institutional leaders alike — to realize their own visions and advance the common good. For further information, please visit or email Follow us on Twitter or “Like” us on Facebook.

Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy is dedicated to improving philanthropy to improve the world by training and empowering students and professionals to be innovators and leaders who create positive and lasting change. For further information please visit

NOTE: The organizations and/or individuals who submit materials for distribution by Religion News Service are solely responsible for the facts in and accuracy of their materials. Religion News Service will correct any errors brought to its attention. –


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