iving to religious charities and congregations passed the $100 billion mark for the first time in 2007, according to a recent report by the Giving USA Foundation. Giving to religious groups increased 4.7 percent, bringing the total to $102.32 billion. Overall giving to charitable causes reached $306.39 billion in 2007, a 3.9 percent increase from 2006.
The report, released June 23, shows that donations to religious causes accounted for half of all individual charitable giving. Three-quarters of all giving in the U.S. came from individual donations to charity, the report said.
Del Martin, chair of the Giving USA Foundation, said, "And what you can't forget is that the `little guys,' the families most affected by the economy, kept on giving despite any worries they might have about their personal situations."
Charitable giving consistently represents 2.3 percent of the average American's disposable income year-to-year, a figure that held up in 2007, according to the report.
The report, conducted by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, analyzed eight charity sub-sectors Arts/Culture/Humanities, Education, Environment/Animals, Health, Human Services, Public-Society Benefit, International Affairs, and Religion. Each saw individual increases last year, according to inflation-adjusted estimates.
Though not considered public charities, community and private foundations saw a decrease in giving last year, the report noted.
Researchers asked charities in the Public-Society Benefit category if they were worried that giving to political campaigns during the 2008 election year would hurt charitable donations. Groups reported back they are more concerned about the lagging economy and volatile stock market.
Presidential campaigns in 2007 raised $580 million, according to the Federal Election Commission, a mere one-quarter of 1 percent of the $306 billion raised for charity.
Grassley: Some Investigated Ministries Making Changes
Roby Walker, a spokesman for Joyce Meyer Ministries in Fenton, Missouri, confirmed that changes are being made but could not release details.
Don Price, a spokesman for Benny Hinn Ministries in Grapevine, Texas, also declined to comment in detail but said "reforms and improved governance practices" were being shared with Grassley's office.
Grassley's update noted instances of "whistleblower intimidation" where former employees "have received phone calls reminding them of their confidentiality agreements and threatening lawsuits if the agreements are breached."
Jill Gerber, a spokeswoman for the committee, would not disclose which ministries were involved in such calls, and declined to elaborate on the changes planned at Hinn's and Meyer's ministries.
Grassley's update described the responses from Hinn and Meyer as "in good faith and substantively informative," but said the others are "incomplete" or "not responsive."
The initiative, called Generous Communities, aims to increase community generosity. In Albuquerque, the Tijeras Foundation has helped more than 600 people attend a six-week stewardship program.
The study found factors that appear to correlate to higher levels of generosity: Generous communities have a higher percentage of evangelical Christians, married couples, entrepreneurs, and African-Americans. In Birmingham, people who deal with charity already knew about the city's high level of giving.
"It doesn't come as a surprise to us," said Drew Langloh, president of United Way of Central Alabama.