Economic Doldrums Continue to Squeeze Americans’ Charitable Giving

A new public opinion survey by the Barna Group shows deepening economic concerns among American adults and increasing downward pressure on their charitable donations. 


With each passing year, the economy continues to taint the lives of a rising share of the nation’s households. Currently, one-​third of U.S. adults (34%) report they have been affected in a “major way” by the economic conditions of the last few years.

As for their outlook, Americans believe the poor economic situation is here for the long-​term. Half of adults (50%) say it will take three or more years to recover or the economy will never fully return to its pre-​2009 form.


The financial problems afflicting economies around the world has influenced Americans’ generosity: 41% of all U.S. adults say they have reduced giving to non-​profit organizations as a result of the poor economy in the last three months.

As for giving to churches, Americans are increasingly likely to cut back on donations to congregations and houses of worship. In the current study, one-​third of Americans (34%) have dropped the amount donated to churches in the last three months.


Baby Boomers (ages 47 to 65) are the most likely generation to struggle with the economic doldrums of recent years. Two out of five Boomers claim to be affected in a major way (40%), followed (35%) by the next-​youngest generation, Busters (ages 28 to 46). While about one-​quarter of Elders experienced a similar effect (27%), the same proportion of the nation’s Mosaics (ages 18 to 27) has been hit in a major way. Accordingly, Boomers were the most likely generation to drop their donations to churches and non-​profits in recent months.

Other population segments who were particularly affected by the economy were households earning less than $40,000, divorced Americans, those associated with a faith other than Christianity and non-voters.


David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, directed the study. “Americans’ considerable charitable behavior remains intact, but each year seems to bring new economic burdens to donors,” he says. “Church donors stayed more consistent in their giving than did those donating to non-​profits. However, church donors are now showing increasing fatigue. We expect the next six months to be continued cautiousness for donors of all types. For faith leaders and fundraising professionals, this means planning on modest donation levels and capital campaigns and the need for clear, compelling and consistent communications to donors.

[Source:  Research conducted by the Barna Group.  28 June 2012.  Web.  19 July 2012.]