National Survey of Finances and Activities of Congregations

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Tue, 01/01/1991

In the United States, giving to religious organizations accounts for one-half of the philanthropic dollar. Despite religion's pivotal role in Americans' volunteering and giving, there has been little attention from either the scholarly or philanthropic communities focused on the finances and activities of congregations. The purpose of this grant was to collect information about religious organizations to enable the researchers to compare the religious and the secular nonprofit sectors. The project, led by Virginia Hodgkinson, supported a national survey of the finances and activities of one thousand congregations, and this information supplemented a national survey of nonprofit organizations which relied on IRS data. The congregational survey provided an estimate of the finances and activities of religious nonprofit organizations, determined the extent of paid and volunteer employment in this sector, and gathered information on the financial health and policy concerns of nonprofit organizations. Results show that expenses of the religious congregational sector totaled $47.6 billion. The study suggested that small congregations were losing ground in comparison to larger congregations, both in financial strength and in management practices. Large congregations were the only group that showed an increase in average revenues that kept pace with inflation. As part of the larger national survey of nonprofit organizations, this project proved the viability and explanatory power of the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities as a classification system for nonprofit organizations. (SM)