Study: Donations rise but federal changes create anxiety

The 3rd Annual State of the Plate survey from 1,507 churches showed giving increased last year for 43 percent of churches. But 91 percent of church leaders are concerned about proposed government changes to tax deductions for charitable giving.

By State of the Plate

WASHINGTON, March 30, 2011 /Christian Newswire/ — It’s been a tough time financially for churches the past three years. But just as a glimmer of hope began to surface this past year, the federal government’s desire to tinker with the charitable tax deduction has most church leaders concerned. The 3rd annual “State of the Plate” constituency survey of more than 1,500 congregations showed that 43 percent of churches saw giving increase this past year (up from 36 percent last year).

When asked about the federal government’s plan to modify the rules concerning charitable tax deductions, 91 percent of church leaders expressed concern that this would negatively affect giving.

Brian Kluth, founder of MAXIMUM Generosity and the State of the Plate research, said, “Charities and churches have been hit hard by the economy the past three years. If the government’s plan to change the rules on charitable tax deductions goes through, giving to charities and churches will likely be negatively affected.”

The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) in Washington DC was a co-sponsor of this year’s State of the Plate research. ECFA recently was asked by Sen. Charles Grassley (D-Iowa), former chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, to lead a commission that will look into changes related to regulations governing non-profit charities and churches. Dan Busby, president of ECFA, says “Sen. Grassley has said in the past that he wants churches to properly self-govern in financial matters. The State of the Plate research shows that a significant number of churches are concerned about financial integrity and accountability– 94 percent make their financial statements available to members, 73 percent have a finance committee, 56 percent conduct an internal audit annually, and 36 percent have invested in a CPA audit in the past 3 years. Our research shows many churches are implementing strong financial accountability practices.”

This year’s State of the Plate research also showed that 39 percent of churches saw giving decline this past year. While the Pacific Coast states showed the greatest declines in church giving in 2008 and 2009, the Southeast states experienced the heaviest declines in 2010. Smaller churches, those with attendance under 250, saw giving decline more than larger churches.

Whether giving increases or decreases in 2011 will depend on a variety of factors, said Matt Branaugh, director of editorial for Christianity Today International’s church management team, a survey co-sponsor. “It’s critical for church leaders to nurture relationships with people and show them how their giving directly helps the church’s mission and their surrounding communities,” Branaugh added.

“State of the Plate” online surveys were completed by 1,507 churches of varying types from all regions of the country. For an Executive Summary with charts/graphs/trends, go to,, or


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