Giving to religious groups holds steady

Despite the dismal economic outlook in 2008, donations to some evangelical religious organizations held steady, or even increased, in the last three months of the year, a new study says.

Almost three in four evangelical groups that work outside or across denominations to promote evangelism and social welfare saw their donations meet, exceed or come within 10 percent of their goals.

Fewer than three in 10 saw their donations fall more than 10 percent below their goals, says a survey by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.

“Many parachurch ministries we surveyed reported small donations of $10 to $100 were relatively unaffected, and in some cases, donations in this category increased,” Dan Busby, acting president of the council, says in a statement. “In fact, some of our members had the strongest fourth quarter they’ve had in years and ended the year debt-free.”

To combat recessionary forces, more than half the respondents say they increased their face-to-face contact with donors, while over three in 10 updated their messaging to include how their groups are responding to the economy.

While donations were strong for some, investments struggled, with half the organizations reporting losses of 15 percent to 30 percent.

To offset the losses, and prepare for the possibility of a long recession, more than four in 10 groups have frozen salaries and almost as many have frozen or reduced their hiring.

And fundraising conditions could deteriorate in 2009, as many groups say some major donors have warned they may not be able to make gifts this year because of the economy.

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