Charitable giving from all sources in America in 2012, the latest records available from “Giving USA” was $316 billion. That represented a 3.5 percent increase over 2011. Giving by individuals was $229 billion, a 3.9 percent increase, and represented 72 percent of all giving. As usual, religious organizations received the largest proportion of giving at 32 percent. Educational organizations received the next largest proportion at 13 percent. The $229 billion given by individuals was the second highest in history. The $233 billion given in 2007 was the all-time high.
What is really astounding and disappointing is we Americans are giving about the same proportion of our disposable incomes as we were 40 years ago. In fact, we are giving less proportionately. In 1972 the proportion was 2.2 percent; in 2012 it was 1.9 percent. Despite the significant growth in disposable personal income over the past 40 years and the growth in the intensity of appeals for funds from the ever growing number of charitable causes, we have been stubborn and decided not to give a larger share of our incomes. Instead, on average we continue to be stuck at about 2 percent and continue to give ourselves and our families top priority in the use of more than 98 percent.
I was struck by what one charitable giving consultant observed about this 2 percent phenomenon. He stated he was convinced the key factor in driving increased giving for most people was to teach them “when” to give. He cited two reasons. First, the habit of most is to give out of what is left after all the bills are paid instead of giving first before the bills are paid. Second, in the Christian tradition those who have been taught to give the “first fruits” tend to give more proportionately than those who are simple told to give because it’s their Christian duty.
The solution for being stubborn and stuck in our charitable giving is related directly to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives. And the Holy Scriptures are filled with truths about giving. I strongly urge you to be more intentional in your study and application of those truths, including the advice of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 16:2 to set aside on the first day of the week a proportionate sum to give.
The information in this article is provided as general information and is not intended as legal or tax advice. For advice and assistance in specific cases, you should seek the advice of an attorney or other professional adviser.