Research findings being released today demonstrate that, rather than being in competition for the donor dollar, charitable organizations and places of worship may actually complement each other in fundraising.
These findings are from Heart of the Donor, an in-depth study commissioned by Russ Reid Company of Pasadena, California, and conducted by Grey Matter Research & Consulting of Phoenix, Arizona.
Heart of the Donor was conducted by telephone and online among a nationally representative sample of 2,005 American adults, in both English and Spanish. The study explores how Americans interact with non-profit organizations, including their giving habits to non-profits and places of worship such as churches, mosques, and synagogues.
Charitable organizations and places of worship often cast a wary eye at each other. There is frequently concern from both sides that when people give money to one, that could mean they have less money to give to the other. This can be particularly true regarding religious charitable organizations, since the target audience is considered to be common to both religious charities and places of worship.
The Heart of the Donor research discovered a somewhat different story, suggesting that financial support of places of worship and charitable organizations may be inter-related rather than competitive.
For one thing, the study found that Americans who attend worship services on a regular basis (i.e. once a month or more) are somewhat more likely to have given money to charitable organizations in the last 12 months than are those who do not attend religious worship services (42% to 36%). However, a much greater disparity arises when comparing people who financially support a place of worship and those who do not (whether or not they attend one). Among people who financially supported a place of worship in the past 12 months, 54% also gave money to one or more charitable organizations during this time. Among people who did not give money to a church or other place of worship, only 28% gave money to any charitable organizations in the last year.
But there is much more to this story. For one thing, people who financially support a place of worship not only are more likely to give to charitable organizations, but they give more money to charities than do others. The average donor who does not also give to a place of worship supported 4.2 charities in the last 12 months, to the tune of $701. The average donor who also supported a place of worship gave to 5.5 charities, with total giving of $798.
In other words, people who give to a place of worship are 93% more likely to support charitable organizations than are those who don’t support a place of worship. In addition, on average those who support a place of worship give 14% more money to other non-profits than those who do not, and they give to 31% more charitable organizations.
There is also quite a difference according to how much money people give to a place of worship. The more money people give to a place of worship, the more likely they are to give to charitable organizations, the more different charities they support, and the more money they give to charities outside of their own place of worship.
In the study, Grey Matter Research grouped people into six categories, according to how much they had given to a place of worship in the last 12 months:
- Under $100
- $100 to $499
- $500 to $999
- $1,000 to $2,999
- $3,000 or more
People who gave nothing to a place of worship, but who did give to charities, supported an average of 4.2 different charitable organizations in the last year. Those who gave even a nominal amount to a place of worship (under $100) support an average of 4.7 different charitable organizations (in addition to the place of worship they support). This number rises as the amount of money given to a place of worship rises: 5.2 organizations among people giving $100 to $499 to a place of worship, 5.8 among those giving $500 to $999, and 6.1 among those giving $1,000 to $2,999. The average does not go up at the very top category – it is 5.8 among people giving $3,000 or more to a place of worship.
Not only are they giving to more organizations, but the more money Americans give to a place of worship, the more money they give away to other organizations. Among charitable donors who gave under $100 to a place of worship, the average total giving to other charitable organizations is $208. These numbers rise in lockstep:
- An average of $376 among donors who gave $100 to $499 to a place of worship
- $916 among donors who gave $500 to $999 to a place of worship
- $1,059 among donors who gave $1,000 to $2,999 to a place of worship
- $1,440 among donors who gave $3,000 or more to a place of worship
Ron Sellers, president of Grey Matter Research, noted that everything in the study points to one conclusion about the interaction between giving to charitable organizations and to places of worship. “Americans who give to their church or place of worship are more likely to give, period – including to charitable organizations. The more they give to a place of worship, the more they give to other causes, and the more different charitable organizations they support,” Sellers said. “Rather than being in competition for the donor dollar, it seems that giving fosters giving. This is backed up by other recent studies that have shown other correlations in personal behavior, such as the fact that people who volunteer with non-profit organizations are more likely to be civically involved in other ways as well, or our finding in Heart of the Donor that people who volunteer with a non-profit are also more likely to give to a non-profit.”
One reason many Americans give to both a place of worship and charitable organizations may be that many church donors are not supporting specifically religious causes outside of where they attend worship. The study explores the types of causes and issues donors have supported over the last 12 months. Twenty-seven percent of Americans have given to a cause or issue they specifically describe as “religious,” excluding any giving to a place of worship. Only 39% of all donors to a place of worship have also given to the cause of religion through a charitable organization.
The more money people have given to a place of worship, the more likely they are to have supported a religious cause through a charitable organization, from just 10% among people who gave less than $100 to a place of worship, to 51% among those who gave $3,000 or more to a place of worship.
Sellers cautioned that the study asked people about the causes they have supported, rather than the types of organizations. This is an important distinction, because many people may give to religious charities that are working toward disaster relief, education, poverty relief, or other causes. “The study is not saying that only four out of ten donors who gave to a place of worship also gave to another religious organization – it’s saying that four out of ten donors who gave to a place of worship also gave to specifically religious causes, such as evangelism or religious education, outside of their own place of worship. Americans who support a place of worship are also supporting many causes that most places of worship are not directly involved in – supporting veterans, higher education, helping people with disabilities, medical research, etc. This apparently is not a conflict with their giving to a place of worship, but a supplement to it.”
Lisa McIntyre, Senior Vice President of Russ Reid Company and an integral part of the study, noted that rather than fear each other, places of worship and charitable organizations need to consider how to work together more effectively in partnership. “Charitable organizations can partner with places of worship to help both accomplish things they can’t accomplish on their own,” McIntyre advised. “Many charitable organizations have goals that people of faith can get behind, such as education, poverty relief, and health care, even if those causes are not specifically religious. And if the charitable organization has a religious background or does religious work, the opportunity for partnership is even more obvious.”
However, McIntyre also suggested that the concern over potential competition that some places of worship and charitable organizations have is not likely to go away without effort on both sides. “Charities that want to partner with churches and other places of worship need to see it as a true partnership, rather than making the leaders of that congregation feel as though they’re just a giant blank check. That means communicating a shared vision and helping that congregation see the results of their financial help. It’s far more than just fundraising.”
Heart of the Donor was commissioned by Russ Reid Company and conducted by Grey Matter Research & Consulting. The study was conducted using a demographically representative and behaviorally balanced national online research panel, along with telephone data collection among people who do not use the Internet. The sample size of 2,005 people has a potential sampling error of ±2.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence interval. The study was conducted in both English and Spanish. Data was collected May 2010.
Grey Matter Research has been solving the information and research needs of for-profit companies and non-profit organizations since 1996. Formerly Ellison Research, the company has worked with a lengthy list of national donor-supported organizations over the last 15 years, along with corporate clients such as Chevrolet, Macy’s Department Stores, Navistar, and Coca-Cola. Grey Matter Research offers sophisticated qualitative and quantitative research techniques to uncover details that make a tangible difference for clients.
Russ Reid is the preferred fundraising partner of over 200 growth-oriented non-profit organizations across the United States and Canada. The company has a 46-year proven track record of acquiring high value donors and dollars using all available media, including online, direct mail, print, television, radio and catalog, as well as federal funding and advocacy. Russ Reid helps clients extract maximum value from these donors through sophisticated donor segmentation, offer development, and donor retention strategies.