“The base of people shrunk significantly. That was the scary part for us from a sustainability point of view.”
From The Washington Post:
Those who study such issues say the impact of the covid-19 crisis on giving also has not ended. The pandemic transformed many aspects of religious life. Thousands of congregations accustomed to the in-person, pass-the-plate kind of giving shifted to digital options, experimenting with new places and spiritual practices or bailing on religion altogether. It is not yet possible to tell what those shifts will mean for congregational giving, which both sustains houses of worship and has been a key source of American charity.
Philanthropy experts say they also do not fully understand the impact of new platforms for giving — such as GoFundMe, which has raised billions — nor do they count it when they consider the broad trends in giving, but experts at Villanova said the new data shows that the bottom line for Catholic parishes is a bit worrisome.
“People who were less engaged before became more so. Infrequent givers stopped going during covid and haven’t come back. The base of people shrunk significantly. That was the scary part for us from a sustainability point of view,” said Matt Manion, the director of the Center for Church Management. “If the base is shrinking, and it’s an aging population, that doesn’t bode well for the future.”
Total giving at 989 parishes across the country went from $876 million in the year before the pandemic began — April 2018 to March 2019 — to $840 million during covid-19’s first year before bouncing back to $891 million in the year that ended March 2022, Villanova found. However, once adjusted for inflation, the level of giving was roughly the same as before the pandemic.The number of donors fell 26 percent from before the pandemic to mid-2020. The most recent data — up to mid-2022 — shows the number of donors climbed a bit but is still 16 percent lower than the norm before.
From the study:
Encouragingly, annual per person giving increased 24% in the first year of the pandemic ($1,295 to $1,603). This is likely a combination of increased generosity in response to the need, larger gifts from the biggest donors, increased giving capacity for those who received stimulus funds, and the benefit of the shift to recurring online giving.
An almost equal number of parishes in this study saw collections increase (471, 48%) and decrease (465, 47%), with 6% (58) flat. The distribution followed a typical bell curve as 26% (259) had collections drop over 10% and 28% (273) had collections increase over 10%.
Total overall giving increased for parishes in the Southeast (5%), Southwest (3%) and West (3%) compared to pre-pandemic levels. Total overall giving decreased for parishes in the Northeast (2%) and Midwest (-3%) compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Parish size had no statistically significant impact on the change in collections. There were an equal of small, mid-size, and large parishes that did well and did not.