How the World Gives
How the World Gives

How the World Gives

I’ve been engaged in connecting Christians to global ministry opportunities for 27 years and have learned a lot along the way.  You’ll notice I didn’t say, “I’ve been engaged in fund-raising for 27 years,” as that term connotes a singular direction of getting money from people for ministry.  I’ve learned, with God’s help, that my work is to tell the story of what He is doing and invite people to participate.  That type of partnership goes both ways and is a much healthier approach.  DML has been blessed with many loyal donors who not only believe in the vision but also seek to live it out in their own lives – what a blessing!

Over the years, as I’ve sought to grow in wisdom in this subject matter, I have become curious about how the world gives.  This is in part because DML is currently trying to help our implementing partner ministries find connections with Christians in their local community who can also partner in this work.  And what I’m learning is fascinating (maybe just to me…I know not everyone loves statistics!).

So let me share some facts that I read from the websites cited below:

  • 72% of the world’s population supports others. I’ve helped people with their budgeting in many warm cultures, and found that often upwards of 40% of their budget goes to helping family members, parents, the poor, and more!
  • Religious people have a higher giving index.  However religious giving is less than it was during the Great Depression when giving was at 3.3%.  
  • Jews outgive every other religious group for generosity.  Muslims are required to give 2.5% of their wealth.  Christians currently give 2.5% in the US, which is 7x the amount given by European counterparts and 2x the amount given by Canadians.  (As a Canadian, I’m a little surprised at this!  Canadians are known to be generous people!)
  • The US gave $471 billion to charities in the year 2020.  Only 20% of that comes from companies; 80% from individuals.
  • Of this, 41% goes to congregations, 3% goes to religious charities, and 27% goes to groups with no religious ties.  In total, 73% of all giving is connected to religion.  There are 25 churches for every Starbucks in the US, showing the strength of religious philanthropy in numbers.
  • Immigrants give more than nationals.
  • In the US, those making less than $50,000 a year give more in relation to total income than those in all other income ranges except the highest earners.  Those who make between $100,000-$500,000 are the least charitable in relation to gross income.
  • The least likely reason for people to give is for a tax break.
  • 84% of Millennials give; 59% of Gen X give; and 72% of Baby Boomers give.

[80+ Charitable Giving Statistics & Demographics (2023) (definefinancial.com)Less God, Less Giving? (philanthropyroundtable.org)World Giving Index 2023 | CAF (cafonline.org)]

The report on the Great Commission (written about last week) shows that the additional information that the same small amount of money that is given to global missions is also lost to ecclesiastical crime.  That’s a difficult number to accept. 

The often-overlooked statistic (in a world of “should” and “ought”) is that generosity is linked to life satisfaction. It’s what we were made to do – blessed to be a blessing!

Recently a donor shared with me how things have changed of late in terms of giving.  She relayed that growing up, she saw her grandparents and parents give out of the meager amounts that they had.  Today people seem to give out of their abundance but it is rarely sacrificial.  We talked about how sometimes we need to ask ourselves not “how much are we giving” but “how much are we keeping?”  [This reminds me of a not-so-great parenting moment I had when Hannah and Noah were about 10 and 8 years old.  I walked into the room as they were talking about the lottery winnings of 10 million dollars that the TV had advertised.  Hannah proudly said, “Mommy, if I win 10 million dollars, I’m going to give 9 million to the poor!”  Rather than thanking her for her generous heart and spirit, I instinctively responded, “Why do you need one million dollars for yourself?”  Case in point.  Not my best parenting moment, but it speaks to the question of how much should we keep? (Something that I had struggling with at that time in my work with the poor, and poor Hannah got the brunt of it!)]

Some of the challenges inherent in giving stems from our motivation.  Does it come from a “should?”  Does it come from a tradition or habit?  Or does it come from “blessed to be a blessing,” an understanding that Christ’s love compels us as we have been loved much (2 Cor. 5).  Does it come out of fellowship in the body of Christ?

The reality is that with finance, there are often strings attached.  This is even seen in New Testament times as Paul sometimes didn’t want money from some people/places because of the expectation of recompense.  If we give to control, boast, or make strategic statements, control is not given to the Holy Spirit.

And so the struggle of how to give and how to be generous continues.  Our generosity goes beyond our treasure but also to our time and talent.  The struggle is real, as these statistics suggest.  But generosity does lead to life satisfaction.  True happiness comes from being involved in something greater than ourselves – as Christians we know this…but science is also catching on.  It’s how we were created.  

At DML, we are looking for partners not donors.  Champions of the idea that work can and should be an act of worship.  This opportunity is global and has nothing to do with poverty.  But it can alleviate poverty.  And it can bring flourishing at a global level.  If you are interested in learning more, please email me!