The 2016 State of the Plate survey is a survey conducted by several ministries and church businesses. MAXIMUM Generosity, Tithe.ly, ChurchMag, Elvanto, ChurchOS, and Apollo Church Apps all sponsored the survey, according to its summary report.
The survey, although not scientific, canvassed almost 1,600 Christian pastors, leaders, and laypeople about giving and generosity in their own church settings. The results showed continued trends from the last survey round, 2013.
Those findings for 2015 giving (the year covered by the 2016 report) include several important changes, including flat or decreased giving for almost 6 in 10 ministries (59%).
Since 2010, churches offering website or online giving has increased from less than 3 in 10 (29%) to nearly 8 in 10 (79%). Only a slightly smaller percentage of churches (73%) offered “Bank EFT Autopay” as a giving option in 2015. One of the greatest growths in giving options, however, is cell phone/text giving, which increased more than tenfold in the last six years to 46 percent of churches (up from 4% in 2010).
Are these digital giving options resulting in bigger giving to churches? Overall—not really. Over 4 in 10 churches (41%) did see an increase in total giving of at least 5 percent over the past year, but an almost equal number of churches (39%) said their giving had flat-lined, and the rest (20%) said their giving decreased at least 5 percent.
So how can churches turn these figures around? One answer may lie with young (i.e., future) donors. But their habits may prove difficult to capitalize on.
According to the survey, people in their 20s and 30s are much more likely to miss church in the first place, making getting in-person connections and donations much harder. Half (51%) are more likely to miss church because of sickness, nearly a third (32%) because of work, almost a quarter (24%) because of competing social commitments, and one fifth (21%) because they were too tired or simply didn’t feel like going. For churches used to attendance at church being a given, these are stark realities to grapple with.
Young people (the same demographic) are also more likely to give less frequently than other generations, with 6 in 10 giving no more than twice per month and sometimes only once every few months.
Perhaps most damagingly, though, only about 3 out of 5 (63%) young people give 10 percent or more of their income to church. For everyone aged 40 or over, the average is 4 out of 5 (83%).
Church leaders will be increasingly seeking solutions to the problems faced by changing technologies and behaviors when it comes to giving. The State of the Plate Survey offers several giving resources in their full report.
In addition, Church Law & Tax has the following resources available relating to charitable giving and church finances:
- The Church Finance Today monthly digital and print newsletter
- Church Finance (book)
- Increase Giving at Church (eBook)
- Church Fundraising Campaigns (eBook)
- Best Practices for Receiving Charitable Contributions (eBook)
- 2017 Charitable Contributions Bulletin Inserts
Samuel Ogles is Associate Editor for Church Law & Tax.
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