High level of pessimism revealed in donor survey from Barna

Giving is not likely to get good anytime soon. Confidence level in the current Barna survey is not particularly strong and seems to be deteriorating. Seems to me that confidence in the future is a major driver in how people will give.

If you are raising funds for your organization or trying to figure out when you can expand, pay attention to this part of the survey.

Here is Barna’s May 2011 report: Donors Proceed with Caution, Tithing Declines.

Look at the answers to Barna’s question:

How long do you think it will take for the national economy to fully recover?

  • 7% – half a year or less
  • 9% – a year
  • 24% – two or three years
  • 47% – more than three years
  • 6% – not fully recover

I listed just the responses for April 2011. The responses for November 2008 and January 2010 are in the report.

That is a very pessimistic outlook.  Two-thirds of the respondents think it will be at least two years before the economy recovers fully.

Visually looking at the data from 11-08, 1-10, and 4-11 suggests there is an overall deterioration in outlook. Being an accountant, I converted the responses into a weighted average which also suggested the outlook got worse from 2008 to 2010 and again from 2010 to 2011.


Even though the economic statistics show improvement, it may be a while before people regain their confidence for what the economy will look like in the near future. You need to factor that in to your expectations, or perhaps wild guesses, about what will happen with your giving levels.

Don’t laugh about my saying you need to make wild guesses. If you make forecasts, they may only be guesses. But without struggling with the question of where things are going, you will be completely blind-sided by what happens, no matter how things develop.

Previous post discussing how people changed their giving in the previous three months is here.

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