Religious Groups Top List of Nation’s Institutional Donors

January 25, 1989 2 min read

Religious institutions are the primary source of voluntary giving in the United States, surpassing corporations and foundations, a new study has found.

Religious groups provided $8.4 billion in direct grants to other organizations in 1986, according to the report. The total support from U.S. foundations in that year was $5.9 billion, and American businesses gave $4.5 billion.

The study was conducted by Independent Sector, a coalition of 650 philanthropic organizations, and the Gallup Organization.

It showed that, in 1986, the total revenues of the country’s 294,000 re4ligious congregations amounted to approximately $49.6 billion, of which 82 percent came from individual donations.

Almost half of the portion of8church revenues coming from individuals--or $19.1 billion--went to support educational, cultural, health, welfare, civil-rights, environmental, and other “public benefit” programs, according to the study. It found that 87 percent of the country’s religious congregations support one or more programs in the area of health and welfare.

The study further showed that, of all the funds contributed by individuals in 1986, donations to religious groups accounted for 58 percent. By contrast, education received 11.6 percent of the individual donations, health 14.6 percent, and human services 10.5 percent.

Impact of Indirect Aid

The study noted that if those figures were recast to deduct from the religious category the donations such organizations forwarded to other areas, then the actual contributions registered by the other sectors would be higher than the portion they received directly from individuals.

For example, it said, contributions to education totaled $14.1 billion in 1986 with religious aid factored in, rather than the $10.1 billion received in direct aid.

By the same token, contributions to health care in 1986, when the total donated by religious groups is added, rise from $12.3 billion to $13.9 billion, and contributions to other human services rise from $9.1 billion to $11.6 billion.

In addition to their money, religious volunteers other than clergy devoted a total of 51 million hours a month to their congregations’ community services, according to the Independent Sector study. The annual dollar value of this time was estimated to be $5.4 billion.

The study, believed to be the first of its kind, was conducted from May 1987 to March 1988. It examined the fund-raising activities and financial allocations of 4,205 congregations, representing 113 religious denominations.--kg

A version of this article appeared in the January 25, 1989 edition of Education Week as Religious Groups Top List of Nation’s Institutional Donors