offering plate

Barna: Tithing Trends

During tax season many Americans review their 2012 finances, including a look at how much and to whom they donated money last year. In a new poll from the Barna Group, more than half of Americans said they have donated money or items (or both) to a cause they cared about during the last year. And only 13% of Americans say they haven’t donated any money to charity in the past 12 months.

Those highly charitable patterns exist despite the fact that over one-third of Americans (37%) say that though they are financially stable right now, they’re just making ends meet. Another one in four adults say they are struggling to make ends meet (25%). Only one-quarter of adults consider themselves financially secure. On the extreme ends, 4% of adults report having “more than they need,” while 5% say they require financial assistance to make ends meet.

Who Gives?

The vast majority of U.S. adults donated money in 2012 to charities or churches. As might be expected, there is a correlation between how much money people make and how much money they donate. Nearly 7 in 10 American adults (69%) making $60,000 or more of household income say they donated money over the last year, compared with less than half of people (45%) in households making less than $40,000.

About half of adults (51%) donated items they owned to causes they believed in over the last year. Older people—aged 45 or more—are less likely to have donated items (48%) than people who are younger than 45 who donated items at an average of 54%. People making over $60,000 are most likely to donate their time as a volunteer—nearly half of adults (47%) in that income bracket have done so.

Religious Identification and Giving

A person’s religious identification has a lot to do with whether or not they donate to causes they believe in. Evangelicals were far and away the group most likely to donate money, items or time as a volunteer. More than three-quarters of evangelicals (79%) have donated money in the last year, and 65% and 60% of them have donated items or volunteer time, respectively. Additionally, only 1% of evangelicals say they made no charitable donation in the last 12 months. Comparatively, 27% of those with a faith other than Christianity say they made no charitable donation in the last year—a number more than double the national rate (13%). One-fifth of people who claimed no faith said they made no donation over the last year, still noticeably higher than the number for all Americans.

Interestingly, the difference between evangelical Christians and non-evangelical born again Christians was marked. While 79% of evangelicals made a financial donation over the last year, 53% of non-evangelical born agains said the same. The number of non-evangelical born again Christians who didn’t make a donation matches the national average exactly (13%), compared to the only 1% of evangelicals.

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