This is Giving Tuesday, when nonprofits of every
stripe hope to attract some of the billions of dollars to be spent during the
Hanukkah and Christmas season.
Many of those dollars will go to religious
groups. Now, new research is expanding the meaning of “religious
giving.” It counts motivation for giving, and measures not only gifts to
houses of worship but also donations to faith-connected nonprofits that are
doing secular service such as fighting poverty or offering job training for the
“Most people cite their religious commitments,
but most also cite the belief that they should give to benefit others. Many
people hold both these impulses at the same time,” said Shawn Landres, a
co-author of the research report, “Connected to Give: Faith Communities.”
The report, released at the recent American
Academy of Religion conference in Baltimore, found that in 2012:
* 63 percent of all Americans donated to some
kind of cause, charity or philanthropy.
* 71 percent of those donors gave both to religious groups (including
congregations) and to nonreligious organizations. * Any given follower of one
religious tradition is no more likely to give to charity than a follower of
another faith. Differences in the likelihood of giving are due more to
variations in household income, education and age, said Landres.
When the study looked at amounts donated overall
in 2012, researchers found:
* The median amount given among all donors was
* 41 percent of all household dollars donated went to religious congregations.
* 32 percent of donated dollars went to religiously identified nonprofits such
as Catholic Charities or Jewish Federation or small programs such as the
University Muslim Medical Association Community Clinic in Los Angeles, Landres
This aligns with research by sociologist Jonathan
Hill of Calvin College, who studies religion and financial generosity.
“Giving is a transferable habit that happens to
be cultivated in religious settings,” Hill said at the recent Society for the
Scientific Study of Religion conference in Boston.
But the “Connected to Give” report also cites
generosity thriving among people who claim no religious identity: 34
percent of these “nones” nonetheless give to religiously identified
Until now, most studies have defined “religious
giving” as donations to religious congregations for specifically religious
activities. It didn’t count as “religious giving” if you gave to a church’s
soup kitchen, say, or to a combined-purpose group doing secular work such as
the evangelical relief group World Vision.
The label also wouldn’t have covered several of
the projects listed in the ninth annual “Slingshot Guide” — a handbook of
nonprofit programs and projects that reflect Jewish values of prayer, study and
good works. It was created to appeal to young Jews who often don’t participate
in traditional Jewish philanthropic institutions.