From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Religious givers also support secular groups: survey

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Fri, 28 Jun 2002 11:14:24 -0500

June 28, 2002   News media contact: Linda Bloom7(212) 870-38037New York

NOTE: A head-and-shoulders photograph of the Rev. Robert Edgar is available
at online.

NEW YORK (UMNS) - People who give money to religious congregations are more
likely to give to secular organizations than those who do not contribute to
a church, synagogue or mosque.

That's the finding of a report on faith and charitable giving released
during a June 27 briefing by the National Council of Churches and
Independent Sector, a nonprofit coalition of more than 700 national
organizations, foundations and corporate philanthropy programs.

The Rev. Robert Edgar, a United Methodist pastor and the NCC's chief
executive, said the report confirms "a deep-rooted commitment on the part of
people of faith" to give their money, time and talent not only to their own
religious traditions but also to other organizations.

In the survey, "Faith & Philanthropy: The Connection Between Charitable
Behavior and Giving to Religion," 4,216 American adults were interviewed
about their volunteering habits during the past year and their household
giving during 2000.

Christopher Toppe, a senior analyst with Independent Sector, noted that the
survey defined giving to religion to include only houses of worship and that
church-based social service organizations were categorized under secular
organizations that work in such areas as health, education, youth
development and the environment. Because of that categorization, he added,
the amount of religious giving was probably underestimated.

Of the households surveyed that participated in all categories of charitable
giving, 58.9 percent gave to both religious congregations and secular
organizations, 31.4 percent gave to secular organizations only and 9.7
percent gave to religious congregations only. When limited to households
giving to religious congregations, 85 percent of those donors gave to
secular organizations as well. 

Survey respondents who gave to both religious and secular groups also tended
to give the most money, averaging $2,247 annually per household. "They are
the most generous by far," Toppe said.

Giving to one category does not diminish giving to the other, the report
found, and in some cases, the support of secular organizations by givers to
religious congregations "is dramatic," he pointed out. For example, those
givers are much more supportive of education and adult recreation groups
than those contributing only to secular organizations.

The survey also showed that people who volunteer with both religious
congregations and secular organizations give more time than those who only
volunteer in one category.

"The amount of time that people give to secular (organizations) does not
take away from the amount of time they give to the church," Toppe said.

The Rev. Eileen Lindner, an NCC executive and editor of the Yearbook of
American and Canadian Churches, noted that the Faith and Philanthropy report
"corroborates and extends" what people in religious communities already have
observed. Religiously connected givers have both the discipline and
motivation to contribute, she said.

Harris Wofford, founder of the Peace Corps and former U.S. senator from
Pennsylvania, told briefing participants that the report "cries out for more
action." He serves as chairman of an organization called "America's Promise:
The Alliance for Youth."

Wofford pointed out that there remains a "great gap" to close between the
promises of a good life for all Americans and the reality of life here. The
survey suggests that religious congregations are a first base of support to
help close that gap, he said.

"Most people volunteer because they are asked," he continued. "The big
challenge for us ... is how to make the 'ask' better."

The Rev. Wilson Goode Sr., a Baptist minister and former mayor of
Philadelphia, agreed that religious congregations are a major source of
volunteers. He is involved in a program attempting to find mentors for
children whose parents are incarcerated, and he described the success he has
had in getting volunteer support from Philadelphia churches.
Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth, said that he has had
success in working with religious congregations on environmental issues.
"They are the most dedicated, concerned people," he noted about the
religious volunteers. "They are interested in a broad range of issues."

More information about the Faith and Philanthropy report is available online

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United Methodist News Service
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