2010 Giving trends for churches – part two

A few more observations on the data presented in an ECFA webinar with Brian Kluth, of Maximum Generosity, as the speaker. Previous post here discussed three-year trends.

Change in general giving (without designated funds or building projects).  The executive summary uses seven categories to describe the level of change.  I have combined the data into three categories.  Summarized changes in general giving:

  • 28% – significant increase (5% or more)
  • 46% – little or no change (from 4% increase to 4% decrease)
  • 26% – significant decrease (5% or more decline)

This indicates that half of the reporting churches saw giving levels about the same in 2010 as in 2009.  The remainder are split between large increases and large decreases.

Change in operating budget.  This would exclude designated, schools, and missions.  The executive summary presents this in eight categories which I combined into three for simplicity:

  • 28% – significant increase (5% or more)
  • 53% – little or no change (between 4% increase and 4% decrease)
  • 19% – significant decrease (5% or more decline)

It is worth mentioning more detail for those reporting a significant decrease:

  • 13% – between 5% and 10% decline
  • 4% – between 10% and 20% decline
  • 2% – more than 20% decline

There are clearly a significant number of churches that are in severe distress.

The difference between the change in general giving and general budget reflect what happened to the bottom line – whether spending in the operating budget was changed as much as income changed.

My inferences from looking at the detailed categories provided executive summary:

  • It looks like churches that saw significant increases in giving did not spend all of the increase – my guess is that the underlying pattern is churches who saw a significant increase decided to rebuild their reserves after deficits in previous years.
  • It looks like churches who saw a significant drop in general giving did not cut their spending as much as giving went down.  This would suggest a situation in which churches are absorbing moderate operating deficits in the face of dropping income in order to hold off even more severe cuts for as long as they can.

Check out the executive summary to develop your own conclusions.

Size of congregations responding – executive summary describes the operating budget of the respondents, which would exclude designated, schools, and missions.  The profile of the 1,507 churches participating shows the size distribution I would have expected.

Operating budget for churches responding to survey:

  • 20% – under $100,000
  • 38% – $100,000-$500,000 – this is probably the range for the average size church in America
  • 12% – over $2 million

I recommend you read the executive summary.  Also, lots of nice graphs which summarize their data here.

You can watch the Reviewing the State of the Plate Research and Proven Ideas for Growing Generous Givers webinar, at the ECFA website here.

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