How America givesRecently, the Chronicle of Philanthropy published it’s study on charitable giving. As is often the case, data beats stereotypes when it comes to generosity. Here are some quotes from their study:

  • “Religion has a big influence on giving patterns. Regions of the country that are deeply religious are more generous than those that are not. Two of the top nine states—Utah and Idaho—have high numbers of Mormon residents, who have a tradition of tithing at least 10 percent of their income to the church. The remaining states in the top nine are all in the Bible Belt.”
  • “When religious giving isn’t counted, the geography of giving is very different. Some states in the Northeast jump into the top 10 when secular gifts alone are counted. New York would vault from No. 18 to No. 2, and Pennsylvania would climb from No. 40 to No. 4.”
  • “The reasons for the discrepancies among states, cities, neighborhoods are rooted in part in each area’s political philosophy about the role of government versus charity.”

One other point of interest was that middle class and upper middle class families give a proportionately larger percentage of their income than the wealthy or poor. The Chronicle’s analysis suggests the poor can’t do more, and the rich don’t know the stories behind charitable causes because they often are in proximity to real stories of poverty, etc.

Here’s something we all need to think about:

“And as the nation seeks to recover from the worst economic slide since the Great Depression, the cities and states with the most-generous residents may be in a better position to help the millions of people still suffering from joblessness and other financial setbacks, say experts.

“There’s a storm coming,” says Bruce Katz, vice president at the Brookings Institution and an expert on the nation’s cities. “Which places are prepared?”

Mr. Katz says local governments should be thinking hard about how to encourage giving because “we don’t have the welfare programs that we have had in the past. The need for individual giving is greater than it has been in modern memory.”

Hopefully, we are prepared to help. We will be better equipped if we cultivate generosity in our congregations now. Not only will facilitate ministry that helps lead people to Jesus, it will equip the church to serve the less fortunate in ways the government cannot or will not.

One last thought: there is no correlation between wealth, employment rate, etc. and proportion of income given–other than a slightly negative correlation. People don’t give based on income size. They give based on worldview. This is a lesson the church should learn from the story of the Widow’s Mite, but it’s good to see it played out modern-day as well. Generosity is expected of all followers of Jesus (rich or poor), and it flows not from a full wallet–but from a full heart (rich or poor).

The economy is tough. I know–we just planted a church in a town with double-digit unemployment, and remains over 9%. Nevertheless, I’ve seen amazing acts of insane generosity from people with both little and much–and ungodly greed from both rich and poor. It’s not about size of the wallet. It’s about the size of the Gospel in a person. Or, better put by a far better teacher: Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Click here to explore the giving in your neighborhood or any place you want. For instance, on average, people in New Vintage Church’s zip code give 4.4% of their income to charity. An interesting question is, are Christians any more/less generous than the average person?

Question: Did anything in the study surprise you? Why do you think Bible-belters and the middle-class/upper-middle class give a higher percentage of their income?