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Generosity Is Not Driven by Income

True or false: In general, bigger donors to churches, ministries, and charities give more because they have more ability to give.

Answer: It’s a trick question. The correct answer, to some extent, is both true and false.

The true part is that people with more money do tend to give away larger amounts of money. Grey Matter Research studied evangelical Protestants in 2021. Among donors, they found median giving to church and charity in the past 12 months was $2,200 when household incomes were $100,000 or more, dropping to just $200 when incomes were below $30,000. Clearly, higher-income evangelicals give more.

The false part is that when you evaluate giving amounts as a percentage of household income, they saw almost no difference in generosity between more affluent and less affluent evangelical donors. (Generosity is simply the proportion of household income that is given away.)

Donors with household incomes below $30,000 give away a median of 1.5% of their pre-tax income. The median is a nearly identical 1.56% when incomes are $30,000 to under $60,000. It does rise slightly to 1.85% with incomes of $60,000 to under $100,000, but then falls again to a median of 1.56% among donors earning six figures.

In other words, evangelicals who give money generally do so at a pretty consistent (and consistently low) rate, no matter what their income is like. But 1.5% of $100,000 is obviously twice as much cash as 1.5% of $50,000, so the amount of money rises as income rises.

Regardless of whether you consider tithing to be a biblical mandate or guideline, the chances are you’re not close to it: only about 13% of evangelical Protestants give anything close to a tithe.

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