How Has Giving Changed in 3 Months? A COVID Assessment
In the past several months, Coronavirus has increasingly weighed on the financial security of communities, businesses, and organizations alike. As organizations that thrive on in-person gatherings, churches were especially rocked by sudden social distancing rules and mandatory shutdowns. And because of the unprecedented nature of this situation, churches had no data to look to – no historical examples of how such situations have been handled in the past.
Sales in several industries swiftly plummeted, and supply chain issues pressurized online retailers as the business world turned upside down. But how did COVID impact charitable giving and the health of churches around the country? Within the overarching trends, we found some interesting nuances and details that could help churches bounce back after COVID.
Crunching the Numbers
Different organizations handled COVID in different ways – some closed sooner, while others tried to maintain normalcy for as long as possible. Many relied more heavily on digital outreach and community building, while others simply used COVID as an opportunity to take a breather and regroup. Within church communities, a few broad patterns stood out.
Unsurprisingly, the most prominent trend was a significant financial downturn for many organizations. Of the churches surveyed by CapinCrouse in April, 25% saw no impact on giving, 56% saw a decrease, and fortunately, 19% saw an increase. With donors acknowledging the difficult situation their churches were in, some likely responded with compassionate and gave more.
But in the midst of global upheaval, charitable donations more often fell to the wayside as families prioritized their immediate needs. For this reason, more churches saw a sharp downturn in giving. Some estimates show the decrease was as high as 75% or more for some churches. The COVID giving slump has proven to be statistically more severe than that of the late 2000s recession, further revealing just how stifling the pandemic has been.
Types of Giving
While overall trends seem gloomy, a more promising trend has emerged upon closer observation: The vast majority (90%) of churches experienced an increase in online giving, revealing donors’ commitment and willingness to adapt to sudden changes.
9% of churches saw no change in online giving, and only 1% experienced a decrease in online giving. Interestingly, of the few churches that did see that decrease, all were smaller congregations containing 425 or fewer members. It’s a telling indicator that smaller organizations have the most the gain from building up their online giving avenues – and unfortunately, maybe the most to lose by not doing so.
“In order to survive, and perhaps even thrive, in this post COVID-19 reality, the church must make online giving a priority both through discussion from the pulpit and accessibility to its members. A church not willing to take these decisive steps is at risk of losing those donations.”
Among churches that experiencing a giving increase, the rates of increase varied greatly, anywhere from 2 to more than 20%. A
Recovering from COVID
Right now, the majority of churches have had to tighten their budgets and consider ways to redistribute funds for the greatest impact.
Online worship attendance is another trend that is taking off in light of COVID. This is certainly another promising sign of donors’ willingness to adapt. Still, church organizers need to be even more diligent in making members active participants. Passive witnesses simply don’t give as much. Finding ways to encourage participation in the mission and vision of the organization is especially challenging during social distancing. Still, it will make all the difference in giving, engagement, and building a stronger community in the long run.
What are ways members can participate meaningfully with your organization online? This question will not recede after COVID passes. It will remain a question we must continue to ask as we move toward a more digital culture.
A major aspect of recovering from COVID is seeing the bigger picture beyond the immediate worries. A pandemic will end, but its lessons can be used well into the future. What are these lessons?
Church Sustainability After COVID
One of the biggest elements of church sustainability is diversifying funding avenues. Churches need not assume that just because they have an online giving button on their website, there is no other work to be done. In truth, churches can go deeper by diversifying their online giving avenues and studying how each demographic (e.g. age, gender) prefers to give. This may include incorporating social media, mobile apps, or online giving software to streamline the digital giving process.
How are churches emphasizing online giving during COVID? According to those surveyed, a variety of methods including text-to-give, instructional videos, and implementing new payment options like Apple Pay and Google Pay.
Some churches are taking this opportunity to implement online giving for the first time. Donorwerx offers such a platform that allows your donors to choose between online giving, text, kiosk, or giving through a mobile app. By providing many options, churches can increase the ease of giving and suit many different member preferences.
In addition to these digital efforts, some churches reported reaching out thoughtfully to non-members with some giving history. Others are using direct mail or working directly with elderly members (who traditionally gave in person) to set up online giving.
Church After COVID — You Can Do It
In the end, it’s all about your members and learning how they’d like to participate. Then, it’s simply a matter of providing those avenues in the most straightforward way possible. How can you meet donors where they are and create a win-win for both your church and its members? These are the post-COVID questions that will remain relevant for months, or even years to come.
Going forward, these trends can provide direction and hope for resilient churches. Of course, you must trust that donors will shift to digital giving. They must also stay involved through digital means like online worship. Despite the devastating impacts of COVID, churches can forge a path to sustainability with these data insights in mind. Churches are facing a great deal of uncertainty, but there is a light at the end of this tunnel. It all lies in our ability to adapt to global change, keep fostering community, and stay on mission.