Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Sad to report. . .

After years of strong growth, total charitable giving rose just 0.7% in 2018, according to a new report on philanthropy by Giving USA. When adjusted for inflation, total giving declined 1.7%.  Last year was the first time the impact of the new tax law, which eliminated or sharply reduced the benefits of charitable giving for many would-be donors, could be measured.  Altogether, individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations donated an estimated $427.71 billion to U.S. charities in 2018, Giving USA said. But giving by individuals fell, while contributions from foundations and corporations rose.

Under the new law, total itemized deductions must exceed $12,000, the new standard deduction, up from the former $6,350 standard deduction, for single people. Married couples need deductions exceeding $24,000, up from $12,700.  As a result, fewer people itemize, which means many don’t reap the tax benefits of their charitable contributions.

That is the report. . . you can read more at the link.

What does this mean?  I wish I knew.  It might mean that some of the heavy hitters are waiting to see how things pan out under tax law changes.  It might mean that some folks who would have gained a deduction under the old system are now waiting to see, perhaps combining their donations to one year for the most benefit.  It might mean that other charities have suffered more than churches.  It might mean that Americans are spending more on themselves.  What does this mean?  Who knows?

But the sad reality is that stewardship is the Achilles' heel of Christianity.  We have some very generous and good givers whose faithfulness is amazing.  But we also have many for whom stewardship is largely unknown, whose giving is occasional and not regular, and whose motivation for giving is more for a cause than out of a thankful heart for all of God's goodness.  Those whose giving might be more impacted by tax law changes are those for whom stewardship represents more of a bill or cost than grateful heart and the opportunity to participate in the work of God's Kingdom.

As we struggle to meet the challenges of congregations who are finding the cost of a full-time pastor greater than they are willing or able to meet, we find ourselves addressing again the issue of stewardship.  As we look as the financial health of our church institutions and of the national structures, we meet the challenges of funding things not easy to warm up to (administrative costs) vs giving toward specific and more public causes (building buildings or missionary support).  Everyone wants to fund these things but few are interested in the support of nuts and bolts costs (from heat and AC to paper and paperclips).  Yet these too are items vitally important to the work of the church and to the fulfillment of God's mission locally in the parish and all the way down the chain to national church structures.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I know you have written about demographics in previous blog posts. There are fewer people willing to have kids, which obviously makes it harder for the churches everywhere to meet budgets: