Charitable Giving Outlook for 2016 Appears Weak

Leadership // June 21, 2016

Generosity has reached record-setting levels, making 2015 “America’s most generous year ever,” according to Giving USA in a report they published just last week.

An estimated $373.25 billion in charitable giving came from individuals, estates, foundations, and corporations last year, growing donations by 4.1% over the previous year. Giving USA marks this as a new record for the second year in a row.

As for donations categorized as religious giving, numbers were up 2.7% over the previous year, accounting for $119.30 billion in gifts and 32% of total giving.

That’s the good news.

This small percentage of growth, however, shows us religious giving is losing ground when compared to other categories of giving that are growing at a higher rate.

What’s Coming Next?
Looking at the 2016 predictions, The Atlas of Giving is calling this year a potentially “perfect storm” for charitable giving.

In a press release issued last month about the outlook of charitable giving for the year, experts say giving in 2016 will likely fall well short of the gains made in 2015. They’re attributing this to wild market swings and economic uncertainty, and donors holding back on giving as a result.

Rob Mitchell, Atlas of Giving‘s CEO, is quoted in the release saying, “We’re dealing with some gathering clouds that could escalate into a perfect storm for charities.”

January 2016 started the question of this year’s charitable giving, with the first month-to-month decline since the nation’s last recession ended in 2009.

The prediction is that this year’s charitable giving will range from a 0.9% decline to a 1.4% increase by the end of the year.

Mitchell says this should be a wake-up call to fundraisers and nonprofits to adjust expectations and approach this year. (I’ve talked about building trust in a few blog posts before – this is where that trust is needed more than ever!)

This should be a wake-up call to fundraisers and nonprofits to adjust expectations and approach. Click To Tweet

What does this mean for us in the church?
This prediction on charitable giving has great potential implications for religious giving overall, as well as specific concern for individual churches to fund their God-sized vision. But here are a few thoughts to encourage us and our people:

  • Thankfully, the majority of our financial support comes from people who understand that all we have comes from God and is not ours to keep. While stock market trends and presidential elections DO impact our givers, we have so much more to talk about with our audience!
  • Our God is bigger than stock market turmoil and the political climate. Remind your people that giving out of faith is ours to claim.
  • Our God is faithful. Remind your people of God’s promises to those who are generous. Reference scriptures like Malachi 3:10, Matthew 6:24, Mark 10:21, Acts 20:35, and a host of others you can find in a list on the resources page of my website.
  • Continue to share stories of impact in your worship services and in other avenues. Giving through your church is making a difference in the lives of your people, your community, and around the world. You can bet that if other non-profits begin to feel the squeeze of reduced resources as predicted, they will become proactive in soliciting gifts from their donor base – some of whom are giving to your church.

Am I alarmed? No. But the data serves as a reminder that our task as ministry leaders requires renewed focus, new strategies, and fresh language to keep our people engaged in their personal discipleship of generosity.

I’d love to help you with a generosity audit or strategy session with your team that will provide a peek behind the curtain of the giving in your church and help us formulate a plan to encourage giving through the rest of the year. Or maybe what would be most helpful to you at this time is a free one-hour coaching call. Just reach out and let me know how I can best help. I would be honored to encourage you!

About Rusty Lewis

As a church leader, there’s nothing more frustrating than not having the funding to do what God’s calling you to do. But when you think about trying to address that problem, you feel overwhelmed, you dread the potential pushback from your congregation, and you’re not sure where to turn for help. Over the last 18 years, I’ve helped more than 120 churches close the gap between their current financial reality and what they need to move forward in ministry.

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