Welcome to The Explorer

The Premier Online Knowledge Base for Information and
Statistics About Social Good

Browse The Explorer


Overall Giving

Charitable giving continued to grow in 2021 in response to the ongoing needs associated with the pandemic. While the world adjusted to a new normal, the growth in giving exceeded nearly everyone’s expectations. Not only did both overall giving and online giving grow in 2021, but the average donor was more generous than ever. Charities of all sizes were rewarded for their resilience, and donors demonstrated their enduring dedication to supporting the causes they care about. 

In 2021, overall charitable giving in the United States increased 9% from the previous year. The average donation for faith communities was $348. The average online donation was $243. Organizations in the faith communities subsector received 16.8% of total fundraising from online giving in 2021. See the 2021 Charitable Giving Report for more.  

For more information on this topic, please visit: Total Overall Giving


Past 12 Months

Data from the Blackbaud Institute Index, which captures quarterly giving statistics, shows that in the last 12 months, faith communities experienced an 11% increase in overall fundraising and an9.4% increase in online fundraising compared to the previous 12 months ending December 2020. Check out the Blackbaud Institute Index for more insight.   

For more information on this topic, please visit: Total Overall Giving


Snapshot of the Sector

Although 2020-2021 presented unusual challenges to charitable organizations of every type, we know from history that well-positioned, well-run organizations that persist through the difficult times thrive once economic conditions rebound. For example, while charitable giving declined during the Great Recession, it quickly recovered, posting $77 billion in gains over the next decade.1 

According to Giving USA 2021, charitable giving has comprised about 2% of GDP over the past 40 years, and that remains true today. The share of that total that has gone to churches and other religious organizations has declined over time. Faith-based organizations received well more than half of all giving in 1979, declining to under half in 1995 and now at roughly 28% of the total. This mirrors the trend of decreasing church attendance over that period and more people describing themselves as unaffiliated with any religion. 

Donors to faith-based organizations are vastly more numerous but contribute less, on average, than donors to other categories of charities. According to the 2021 Charitable Giving Report, the average contribution to a faith-based organization was $348 in 2021 which was an increase since the previous year—but still only above animal welfare when comparing 11 subsectors. Overall giving and volunteering by those who describe themselves as religious is higher than by those who do not, according to a national study of American religious giving. More frequent attendance at religious services also correlates with greater contributions to religious charities: frequent attendees at religious services give on average more than four times as much to religious charities as infrequent attendees. 

Evidence unearthed by Giving USA demonstrates that charitable giving follows the stock market. When stock prices are robust, so are charitable donations. When stocks decline, donors feel less wealthy and secure, and make fewer and smaller gifts. Despite all the uncertainty, the stock market spent most of 2020 and 2021 in record territory, providing fuel for greater giving. 

Positioning for the Future

In 2020, Blackbaud and The Unstuck Group surveyed 561 churches to determine how they were coping with Covid and preparing to move forward. The results were surprising: churches were weathering the storm better than they had anticipated. Parishioners were attending church online and donations had lagged just 5% in the early stages of the crisis. We now know that fundraising rallied during the 18 months following the survey. Few churches had furloughed or laid off staff, or initiated salary reductions. Most found they had sufficient cash reserves to withstand the crisis.  

One significant change that has lingered into 2022 is the availability of online services and ministries. Nearly all churches surveyed said they had moved some of their services online and were expecting that to remain a permanent fixture of their work.  

Faith organizations play a critical role in positioning giving back as an important value. In fact, churches and mission organizations play an invaluable role in this—both as sources of community and as critical conduits that connect people with their values. Providing a source of community and hope in a time of need, faith-based organizations can cultivate this support. Many will find that they are well positioned to use moments like these to harvest their community’s generosity and shape how they move forward.