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Although recent economic news show some positive signs the economy is improving, many Americans have cut back on donations to churches and other nonprofit organizations, according to a study released this week by the Barna Group.

The study, based on interviews with 1,008 U.S. adults conducted in January and early February, showed that three out of 10 Americans had dropped their level of support to churches and congregations in recent months.

Nearly one-quarter of church donors had cut contributions by 20 percent or more. That compares with just one-tenth who had done so in the first few months of the
economic recession. In other words, the segment of donors who have dramatically decreased their contributions to churches has more than doubled in the last 14 months.

But one measure of generosity that has stayed relatively consistent is tithing, the survey found. Overall, 7 percent of all adults reported donation levels equaling at least 10 percent of their income. The percentage of adults who tithe consistently has fallen between 5 percent and 7 percent since the beginning of the decade.

Churchgoers over the age of 45 (9 percent) were nearly twice as likely to tithe as those under that age (5 percent). But the study found that those with higher incomes were not necessarily more likely to tithe. Just 9 percent of adults with an annual household income of $75,000 or more and a four-year degree gave at least one-tenth of their income, while 11 percent of people with an annual household income of less than $20,000 and no college education gave an equivalent proportion.

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But what does the research mean to pastors? David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, said leaders should maintain a conservative financial outlook. “The implication is that church and nonprofit leaders should prepare for another lean year," Kinnaman said. "Response to this reality suggests avoiding high-risk and untested fundraising efforts and communicating effectively with constituents. [Source: barna.org; 2/8/2010]

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