How Does Church Philanthropy Impact the Church? Part 2

In Part 1, we identified the trend of churches designating significant portions of their offerings to projects and needs in the community and across the globe via special collections.

As a marketer, my curiosity is always piqued by cause and effect and by both anecdotal and empirical data. So, as I heard more about churches seeing huge offerings when the gifts were pledged to a specific, urgent need, I was pleased to see how compassion fuels organic generosity. It’s not hard to imagine how this triggers greater giving among younger generations, especially.

At the same time, I wondered:

  • How does this compassion-based giving impact the church, both financially and in other ways?
  • Does compassion-based generosity affect obligatory giving? (Do people give less, later, to compensate? Do contribution rates return to normal or perhaps even rise?)

I was surprised by some of the following research, which is interesting, although not scientific. Let’s look at 6 churches that are approaching church donation and philanthropy a little differently.

1. Christ Community Chapel, Hudson, OH

Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” This scripture is the basis of CCC’s special offering days.

A LeadNet article explains a Micah 6:8 Sunday: “4 times a year, the congregation gives away 100% of the offering from its four campuses to local and global causes such as orphanages, hospitals, and ministries that free children from sex trafficking.” Donors can choose from among several recipients that day.

Results:

  • Their first Micah 6:8 Sunday generated $900,000, more than 7 times a normal Sunday’s offering total.
  • In just 6 Micah 6:8 Sundays, the church collected and distributed $2.7 million.
  • They have helped 8 children in Africa get adopted and improved thousands of lives.
  • The special donation days now generate an average of $1.2 million to $1.5 million each.
  • Giving on non-Micah 6:8 Sundays is up 10-12% since the beginning of the initiative.

2. First Unitarian Church, Oklahoma, OK

(Churches 2-5 are all discussed in the same story)

This church began giving away all of its non-pledge Sunday offering in 2002 to causes such as domestic violence, disabled veterans, or racial justice.

Results:

  • In 2001, the non-pledge total was $3,000 for the year. In 2005, it was $22,000.
  • The church lost its poverty mindset and changed its view of money.
  • The church has gained visibility in the community.
  • The church sends a message to visitors that they are active in the community and not financially needy.
  • Members report more joy in generosity.

3. Second Congregational Society, Concord, New Hampshire

Before giving all of its extra donations away, the church struggled to make budget, and required the non-pledge donations of $8,000-12,000 for operations.

Results, in its second year:

  • They were giving away $18,000 (100% of non-pledge donations)
  • They experienced no negative impact on the budget; in fact, they were able to give staff raises.
  • They became less focused on themselves.
  • They gained a reputation in the community as an altruistic church.

4. The Unitarian Society, East Brunswick, N.J

Since 2003, the church has been giving away all of its Sunday collections (non-pledge donations) to local, national and international groups.

Results:

In 2005, they were collecting and distributing several hundred dollars a week.
It helps the church to move outside themselves and makes them more visible in the community.

5. Unitarian Universalist Church, Nashua, NH

This church only began taking up an offering (non-pledge donations) in order to give it away.

Results:

In the third year, collections had increased from $400 to $700 a week, a 75% increase.
The donations are saved until they have roughly $2,000 every 4-6 weeks to give to a local organization.
The congregation is energized by the flow of generosity into their community.

6. Cross Timbers Community Church, Argyle, Texas

In 2009, CNN posted a story entitled Church gives fresh meaning to ‘offering’ plate. During an economic downturn, congregants were asked to take money from the offering plate if they were in need.

Results:

Some who were present took them up on the offer. In the final count, the church received its highest offering ever, while bringing respite to those among them in need.

Give and it Will be Given

The benefits of church philanthropy seem clear:

  • Many beneficiaries’ lives are tangibly changed.
  • The church’s reputation in the community and members’ participation and perspectives are improved.
  • While not guaranteed, the flow of generosity almost unanimously increased generosity in other areas.
  • The faith required to tangibly prioritize mercy and justice over paying the bills and believe we’ll still be able to pay the bills, stretches and grows leaders and members alike.

These stories seem to support the spiritual law found in Luke 6:38, which describes the miracle of giving: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Whether or not a Micah 6:8-type offering day is the right thing for your church, we can all agree that increased generosity has a healthy effect on a church.