First Black Friday, then Cyber Monday, now Giving Tuesday! Black Friday and Cyber Monday are days for getting bargains. Giving Tuesday, (this year December 3), is a day for giving back.
Giving Tuesday is a recent campaign that was started to create a national day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season. It is a known fact that most non-profit organizations in the US receive 30-40% of their annual donations in the last few weeks of the year. Giving Tuesday celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support non-profit organizations. Henry Timms, the movement’s mastermind, says Giving Tuesday is part of America’s great philanthropic tradition. You don’t have to be rich to be a philanthropist, anyone can make a lasting impact when they donate for causes that matter to them. The day is meant to bring the country together around the theme of helping one another. So he encourages people to write a check or give on line to support their favorite charities at the beginning of December.
In my opinion, this is a great reminder at the beginning of advent to think seriously about our giving and what really matters.
My interest in Giving Tuesday is prompted by three trends.
The first trend is the recent decline in overall giving to non-profits. Along with the erosion of government support, this is one reason why Giving Tuesday came into existence
In the aftermath of the Great Recession, non-profits have been hit hard. The Barna Group reports that 2008-2009 saw the largest drop in non-profit giving in more than 40 years. Since then prospects have not greatly improved. In spite of what the stock market is doing, many Americans feel their own economic situation is moving backwards, not forwards. Consequently, many have reduced their donations to non-profits and churches. Some have stopped charitable giving all together. (FN1)
A second trend is the decline in tithers and givers to Christian ministries. Recent Barna reports tell us that the percentage of Americans donating at least 10% to churches and charities declined sharply in 2010. As of 2011, only 4% of US adults tithed their income.
Again, this may have something to do with the squeeze of the American middle class. The median annual income of a male full time worker, adjusted for inflation, is the same now as it was in 1973. Add to this the recent recession, a tight job market, and rising health care expenses; it leaves many Americans feeling like they can’t afford to increase their giving.
A third trend is a corresponding explosion of non-profit organizations during this same period. There are some 1.5 million non-profit organizations in the US. Nationwide, the number of public charities is up 50% since 2000!(FN2) And there are all kinds of charities—some traditional ones such as churches, schools and ministries that help the poor. But also many new ones. There has been a dramatic increase in non-profit advocacy and special interest groups promoting political causes and social issues. There’s also been an explosion of animal related charities–everything from saving gorillas to dog hospice groups!
So put it together—a decline in giving to charities, (even Christian ones), and an explosion of non-profit organizations, and you have fewer dollars going to specifically Christian causes than we did in the past.
Does your church or ministry feel the squeeze?
I for one, think it is time for Christians to think seriously about their giving habits.
And I celebrate Giving Tuesday as a great occasion to do this.
Scripture calls us to be generous givers. But if ever there was a time to be discerning in our giving it is now. There is a need to give to mission critical causes. Mission critical! That is, some non-profits should be very low on our list and some very high. Highest of all should be your local church. Do not ignore faithfully giving to your local church.
What else is mission critical? Ministries that help the needy. Scripture is full of admonitions to not forget the poor.
And along with these, is the importance of supporting ministries that promote the gospel. We have many in our city of Orlando. They exist to help fulfill the great commission—(like Cru!), or to translate the Bible—(like Wycliffe), or to train the next generation of pastors, missionaries, counselors and Christian leaders like RTS Orlando.
Okay. There. I said it. I happen to think that training pastors and leaders really matters. It is a strategic investment. Your church and our society depend on it. But we can’t do it without you.
So if Giving Tuesday helps us focus our thoughts, then let’s get on the band wagon!
F1 The Barna Report, June 2012, https://www.barna.org/barna-update/donors-cause/571-the-economy-continues-to-squeeze-americans-charitable-giving#.Uoe4sfIo7IU
F2 USA TODAY, Nonprofits grow in numbers despite long odds, Mike Chalmers, USA TODAY, February 4, 2013