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Want to Encourage More Giving? Get Thee to Church

11-17-2019

Those who cheer the idea of a more secularized America might want to consider the consequences for charity.

People who identify as religious are often the glue that holds communities together, accounting for a lion’s share of giving to the poor, volunteering and other signs of a caring community.

In an article for the Philanthropy Roundtable, “Less God, Less Giving?” researcher and author Karl Zinsmeister warns that, “Rising numbers of Americans believe that religious activity can be stopped or pushed entirely into private sanctums without any public cost. Those Americans are mistaken.”

Pew Research Center investigators found that 45 percent of Americans who attend services weekly and pray daily had done volunteer work during the previous week, contrasted with only 27 percent of all other Americans.

In terms of monetary giving, it’s no contest. Of America’s top 50 charities, 40 percent are faith-based.

More Giving Across the Board

“In study after study, religious practice is the behavioral variable with the strongest and most consistent association with generous giving,” Mr. Zinsmeister writes. “And people with religious motivations don’t give just to faith-based causes—they are also much likelier to give to secular causes than the nonreligious. Two thirds of people who worship at least twice a month give to secular causes, compared to less than half of non-attenders, and the average secular gift by a church attender is 20 percent bigger.”

The pattern holds even for international comparisons. The United States is one of the most churched countries in the world, far more so than increasingly secular Europe.

“As a fraction of our income, we donate over two and a half times as much as Britons do, more than eight times as much as the Germans, and at 12 times the rate of the Japanese,” Mr. Zinsmeister says.

U.S. voluntary giving to the overseas poor totals $44 billion annually—far more than the $33 billion of official aid distributed by the U.S. government.

Has the Tax Law Affected Giving?

With the enactment of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, and the increase in the standard deduction to $24,000 instead of $12,000, many charities predicted steep drops because many people would no longer write off charitable giving.

But, so far, giving and volunteering have been steady.

Over the past year, compared to 2017, more people report “taking part in charitable activity during the last 12 months (70%, up from 62% in 2017),” according to the Charitable Aid Foundation. Here are some more findings from its report:

  • More than 6 in 10 (62%) Americans gave money in the last 12 months, either by donating to a charity, by giving to a church/religious organization, or by sponsoring someone. This is also significantly higher than the level in 2017, when 55% had done so.
  • Religious organizations remain the most popular cause to donate to in America (38%).
  • More than a third (35%) have volunteered in the last year, up from 31% in 2017. Religious organizations/churches are again the most popular cause (36%) in which to volunteer.
  • The majority of Americans believe that charities have had a positive impact on their local communities, on the USA as a whole and internationally. 

So, the good news is that religious Americans continue to walk the walk by giving generously, usually through their churches.

Speaking of faith-based giving, Timothy Plan, a pioneer in the Biblically Responsible Investing (BRI) movement, tithes a portion of its profits to:

  • Ending abortion with the support of legislation, pregnancy centers and community outreach.
  • Fighting for stricter laws and awareness of child labor and sex trafficking.
  • Protecting the rights of Christians all over the world.
  • Preparing biblical entrepreneurs as they enter the marketplace.
  • Supporting family values in our culture’s entertainment.

Much of the popular culture may seem stacked against faith, but millions of Americans are still heeding the counsel of the Apostle Paul recorded in Acts 20:35: “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

(Robert Knight is a writer for Timothy Partners, Ltd. He is a regular weekly columnist for The Washington Times and Townhall.com and is frequently published by American Thinker, The Daily Caller, OneNewsNow and others. His latest book is “A Nation Worth Fighting For: 10 Steps to Restore Freedom.”)

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