State of Giving 2020

I recently reviewed a report on 2020 giving trends produced by the Evangelical Council on Financial Accountability (ECFA), a respected leader in Christian philanthropy. Warren Bird, Ph.D., and his team at ECFA did the research and prepared the report. It was both interesting and encouraging, and I thought a summary might be useful as we turn the page on 2020 and launch into 2021. The entire report can be downloaded for FREE here.

The report was based on giving to Christ-centered nonprofits and churches. It analyzed patterns across the ECFA’s membership for cash giving (cash, checks, electronic monetary contributions, etc.) This was ECFA’s 11th annual State of Giving Report.

The Good News: Cash giving to ECFA members continues to grow.

From 2018 to 2019, giving increased 1.5%, helping shape a 5-year annualized growth of 2.5% when adjusted for inflation. It is encouraging to note that cash giving to ECFA members increased 9 out of the last 10 years. The reason 2019 numbers are still important is they allow us to bring pre-COVID reality into current financial planning. One factor that may have impacted 2019 giving over previous years is changes in the Tax Code, which raised the standard deduction and made charitable giving less appealing to some donors. Even with that change, givers to ECFA members were more generous overall than givers to other religious segments.

Cash Giving vs. Other Income

Giving to ECFA member organizations was broken down this way: 58% Cash Giving (cash, checks, online, etc.), 15% Non-Cash Giving (gifts in kind, donated services, etc.), and 27% Other Income (tuition, program fees, investments, etc.) Organizations directly touching people with needs, such as child sponsorship, human trafficking, missions, pregnancy care centers along with church giving tended to be higher in “cash” giving. Education, foundations, camps & conferences, and relief & development tended to receive more “Other” income.

Size of Organization

For the most recent year (2018-19), organizations with annual budgets of $5.0 million to $25.0 million saw the greatest increase in giving, ranging between 5.5% and 6.8%. Smaller organizations, $1.0 million or less, saw flat increases in giving.  Churches saw lower growth rates in giving compared to para-church ministries.

The COVID-19 Effect

ECFA prepared a supplemental report titled, “Defying the Odds: Giving Grows Despite the Pandemic.” This report summarizes data collected from nearly 1,300 Christ-centered non-profits and churches in November 2020. The bottom line is that despite incredible challenges, 2020 has seen remarkable resiliency and significant forward motion among ECFA membership. A few discoveries:

•  Almost 9 out of 10 say that 2020 giving year-to-date (January through September) was higher or the same as 2019. Rescue Missions are on the higher end and evangelism ministries on the lower end.

•  Optimism toward future financial revenue was stronger in November than when they asked the same question in 2019. Orphan care has shown the greatest growth in optimism, and student and youth ministries the least optimism.

•  Cash reserves have remained largely untouched in 2020.

•  Staffing levels remained the same in 2020 but might increase slightly in 2021.

I believe this report will show us what we already know – that God’s resources are still present and available, and His people will give to organizations and ministries they love – even during a pandemic. Now that we are emerging out of this pandemic, move forth boldly into 2021 in your fundraising activities.

About the Author: Kent offers clients over 35 years of non-profit experience including teaching, administrative, consulting, and directorships. Through his work as Development Director for The Potter’s House, Gospel Communications International, and Mel Trotter Ministries, Kent brings a wealth of experience in fundraising and development. He currently serves as a board member for the West Michigan chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). His passion for seeing Christian stewardship principles applied in a systematic way helps the non-profit organization or ministry be successful in fulfilling its mission.

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