5 Things Pastors Can Learn from the Giving USA 2018 Philanthropy Report

Here are five actionalbe lessons pastors can learn from the Giving USA 2018 Philanthropy report.

5 Things Pastors Can Learn from the Giving USA 2018 Philanthropy Report

In 2017, charitable giving jumped to a record annual high of $410.02 billion in the United States, according to a report released by Giving USA. Charitable giving increased by 5.2 percent ($14.27 billion) from last year, which caps an increase of $98.96 billion in current dollars between 2007 and 2017.

In accounting for this surge in charitable giving, the findings point to the influence of a booming stock market and a healthy economy. Across the board, the vast majority of charitable sectors analyzed experienced an increase in giving.

The Giving USA 2018: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year is chock-full of insightful charitable giving statistics, and it includes several practical applications for church leaders.

Before divulging the key takeaways, I’d like to point out one pertinent observation:

Your church and the charities in your town are still in need of your financial support.

Several mega-gifts—charitable donations that are $300 million or more significant—buoy the numbers shared in the reportto foundations, which reported a growth rate (15.5%) three times larger than overall giving. The generous mega-gifts to foundations, universities, and hospitals positively skewed the charitable giving contributions upward.

Here’s what you need to know about your church:

Giving to religious organizations is on a steady decline, and member giving in churches is at its lowest levels since 1968, which is 2.17 percent of income as of 2015.

As a church leader, it’s essential to be aware of these national trends, as well as tracking giving in your church. Since money is tied so closely to someone’s faith, having your finger on the pulse of your church’s giving will provide you with a good idea of how your church views their relationship with money—and God.

What pastors need to know from Giving USA 2018

After pouring over hundreds of pages in the Giving USA 2018 report, we pulled out five key takeaways and anecodtes church leaders should be aware of. Here are the key points we’re going to share:

  1. Giving is tied to discipleship
  2. Why small gifts matter
  3. Promote recurring giving
  4. Discipling wealthy church members
  5. Growth of online giving

Let’s get started!

#1. Giving is tied to discipleship

God talks a lot about money.

There are thousands of verses about tithing in the Bible, scriptures on saving money, and biblical stewardship.

God doesn’t talk about money because he needs anything. He talks about money so often because he knows that money is the most dangerous idol you and your church will face (Matt. 6:24).

In leading your church to give, one way to help your congregation make the connection between their faith and money is through encouraging participation in the life of your church.

Sharing results from a previous study, we read this in Giving USA:

The report finds an exponential relationship between worship attendance and giving to religion.

Also, they also shared this finding from Catholic Parishes of the 21st Century by Charles Zech and Thomas Gaunt:

Zech and Gaunt state that one of the main reasons for lower donation levels among Catholics is that Catholic giving is closely associated with Mass attendance, and that Catholics shy away from pledges and regular tithes.

To encourage your congregation to give, continue to preach the gospel, teach the Bible, and encourage people to participate in the life of your church. Leading your congregation to Jesus is the only surefire way to unleash generosity in your church.

#2. Small gifts matter

The size of a gift doesn’t matter. It’s the heart behind the donation that counts.

After observing a poor widow donate two small copper coins into the temple treasury, Jesus said:

“Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43-44, NIV).

The amount this widow gave wasn’t significant per se. But the donation was notable for her regarding her percent to income.

After seeing the data from Giving USA 2018, you might feel concerned that your church collects smaller monetary gifts or that you’re unable to reel in a mega-gift from your community.

Here’s the deal:

Small gifts matter to the heart of your people, and a collection of small financial gifts can amount to an abundance of generosity.

According to one study, the average adult in a Protestant church in the U.S. donates $17 per week. As you teach your congregation how to honor God with their money, let them know that they have the freedom to give from what they have (2 Cor. 8:12). This is a liberating truth for many church members who may struggle with guilt from not being able to give more than what they can.

#3. Promote recurring giving

Regular monthly donations lay a solid foundation for your church’s finances.

On average, people who make recurring donations give more frequently and more per year.

As a church leader, it’s essential to lead your congregation to automate their giving. Not only will this allow you to forecast a predictable source of donations, but you’ll also be able to overcome on the most significant adverse trends in giving.

Based on the Giving USA 2018 report, we discover this pertinent point:

Religious giving trends indicate that regular attendance directly correlates to donating; if congregants are not attending services, they are not contributing.

Regardless of the church you pastor, your congregation will come and go for a variety of reasons. From business trips, illness, and vacation, the members of your church will miss more than one worship service, which means they’ll be inclined not to give.

To lead your church to regularly give when they are or are not present, encourage them to set up recurring giving online. At we understand the importance of recurring givers, so we made it super simple for people to set up recurring giving with a few clicks.  

#4. Disciple wealthy church members

In Giving USA 2018, we know that mega-gifts from the ultra-wealthy positively skewed the charitable giving data upward.

You may not have someone in your church prepared to write a $300 million check or more. But there’s a strong likelihood that you do have wealthy individuals or families in your church.

There’s a chance you’re avoiding the wealthy members of your church or not having the conversations you need to have with them. If this is the case, then there’s a good chance you're doing these members a disservice in their Christian life.

You see, wealthy people face unique challenges. They face a genuine possibility of not entering the kingdom of God (Matt. 19:24). And, what is more, as a pastor, you’re charged to challenge the wealthy members of your church to set their hope on God—not their money or possessions (1 Tim. 6:17).

Be involved in their life, and don’t shy away from having gracefully direct conversations about the relationship of their faith and money.

#5. Cultivate online and mobile giving

To no surprise, online giving continues to surge.

Here are several eye-catching points of data from Giving USA:

  • Data from the 512 respondents suggest that use of digital giving solutions has increased from 42 percent of congregations in 2015 to 74 percent of congregations in 2017
  • Online giving to religious organizations analyzed by the Blackbaud Index grew in 2017 and outpaced growth in giving through more traditional methods.
  • Overall online giving grew 23 percent for reporting organizations in 2017 (compared with 15 percent in 2016), with monthly renewal giving increasing 40 percent.
  • One-time online gifts grew 19 percent in 2017.
  • The overall number of online gifts increased 28 percent in 2017.

What you need to know is that online giving and mobile giving will continue to increase as more and more people use smartphones and move away from using checks or cash for payments. In fact, according to Giving USA, payments made by checks decreased from 46 percent in 2003 to 15 percent in 2013.

Leading your church to adopt online giving is easier said than done.

In a different study by Dunham+Company/Campbell Rinker, they reported that most churches in the United States offer online giving (74%). However, many churches—in particular, smaller churches—observed a decrease in online giving from 2015 to 2017.

As you reflect upon the giving trends in your church, have you observed an increase, decrease, or flatline with online giving? Regardless of where you find yourself today, here are nine proven strategies you can use to increase online giving in your church.

Over to you

Staying up to date with the latest trends in charitable giving will help you to better lead your church in their relationship with money.

Preparing for the surge in online giving and mobile giving will prove to be more important as time goes on.

As you promote the latest tools in giving, be sure to always point your church to live and love like Jesus. As they daily surrender their life to the LORD, they will receive the grace they need to transform into generous givers (2 Cor. 8:1-12).


5 Things Pastors Can Learn from the Giving USA 2018 Philanthropy Report