the shape of leadership

The Giving Generosity Gap

Report highlights differences in donor preferences

Music isn’t the only area of disagreement between younger and older evangelicals. A new study of over 1,000 U.S. evangelicals conducted by Grey Matter Research & Consulting and Infinity Concepts reveals that generational differences extend to giving as well.

The under-40 crowd is more skeptical when it comes to interacting with organizations. Just 43% of younger evangelicals start from a place of trust, compared to 61% of those aged 70 and older.

“The older folks just figure you are trustworthy (or have limited doubts at best),” the report says. “But while some younger donors are like that, almost as many start by doubting what you have to say until you can demonstrate in some manner that you are worthy of their trust. That is a very different way to start a relationship.”

Younger churchgoers are also less likely to do all their giving in one place. Nearly half (48%) of evangelicals under 40 report giving to a wide variety of causes. Just 14% of those 70 and older, and 25% of those ages 55–69, say the same.

Churches and charitable organizations could see a major shift in giving patterns.

Older evangelicals stick with the familiar, with majorities of those over 40 preferring to donate to organizations they know well. Those under 40 are not as bound by loyalty; in fact, 41% favor new organizations, and 14% have no preference.

The oldest givers like to keep their money local. Just 19% of respondents 70 and older said they prefer their giving to go beyond their local area, compared to 48% of under-40s. Similarly, twice as many younger givers as older givers wanted their donations to go overseas (32% vs. 17%).

The oldest respondents are more likely to plan their giving in advance (58%), as opposed to giving spontaneously (24%). Evangelicals under 40 are nearly as likely to be spontaneous (39%) as planned (43%) in their giving.

The oldest evangelicals often research the organizations to which they donate (62%). By comparison, 44% of the youngest evangelicals research before they give, while 38% simply “give where it feels right.”

The report — titled “The Generation Gap: Evangelical Giving Preferences” — concludes that unless these trends change as the younger respondents grow older, churches and charitable organizations could see a major shift in giving patterns. This could include smaller gifts as donors spread their funds to a wider variety of places, increased interest in international giving, and fewer people giving repeatedly in the same place or pledging long-term support.

Significantly, a lack of faith in organizations among younger evangelicals could erode giving relationships. Churches may need to step up their efforts to demonstrate their trustworthiness, show accountability, and report on how donations are making a difference at home and abroad.
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