For churches and other ministry non-profits, the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to become a debilitating financial crisis. How has banning onsite services, closing businesses, and other aspects of the pandemic affected tithing and other financial giving from congregations and donors? Has giving in your church been affected?
Initial Reasons to Worry About Church Giving
Churches bring in money for their operations, and ministry functions primarily through tithes and giving from their congregation. Initially, 65% of churches surveyed reported that giving had decreased between March and April of 2020. Knowing that summer giving is often slower than it is through the rest of the year, the pandemic added another level of concern.
Model predictions of the virus effects sent citizens into worry about a long-term lockdown, including churches and many businesses. A few significant issues gave pastors and elder boards early concerns about how the ministry might be financially affected:
- In-person giving stunted – Local churches closed their doors in compliance with many state and local mandates. The initial concern was that without members coming to the church building’s physical location for services, giving would be a casualty of “out of sight, out of mind.”
- Unemployment – Businesses that could not open or could not retain workers remotely suddenly laid off thousands of employees. With the lack of income, it would be difficult for church members who lost their jobs to tithe or give donations when they didn’t know how to pay their everyday expenses.
- Church support for other ministries – Smaller churches and ministries sometimes count on the support of larger churches, who might not be able to give to each other when their own membership-giving is down.
Some Cases of Bolstered Church Giving
While most churches experienced some drop in giving when the pandemic first hit, a small percentage increased giving, while some surveys show more than a quarter of churches received consistent levels of giving. Still, other churches who dropped at first rose in giving later. Here is what some statistics and experts say contributed to some having increased, stayed steady, or improved giving later during the pandemic:
- Government help – It took a few weeks after the pandemic hit. Still, the US federal government implemented programs that gave loans to businesses and nonprofits while giving stimulus checks to most households and weekly bonus unemployment checks to those laid off due to the pandemic. This relief allowed some businesses to stay open, many individuals to continue working, and even many unemployed to continue giving.
- Pre-budgeted giving – While some church-goers tend to give only cash donations on-site, that’s not the case for some. In many congregations, members budget for regular giving every week. They send in their checks or pay with scheduled direct debit giving even when not physically attending services.
- Online giving – There has been a trend for churches to have smartphone apps and websites that include easy payment functions. A lot of the pre-budgeted giving mentioned earlier is done through apps.
- Online services – Churches that already offered online services before the pandemic benefitted early on, having virtual services in place immediately, never losing touch with congregations. As time went on, other faith communities found ways to go online. An unexpected benefit of online services during COVID-19 isolation was that some churches experienced considerable increases in participation outside their regular congregation, sometimes even outside their geographical location. Online access to those who wouldn’t otherwise attend helped continue or increase giving in many cases.
Myrick CPAs work with many churches and non-profits to facilitate annual budgets and financial planning. If your church or organization has questions about working with the new changes in how your church processes giving, give us a call or go online to schedule your free consultation.