generosity survey

Observations on the Results of the St. Matthew's Generosity Survey

By Ron Matross

Responses were received from 52 members.  Some of these responses also represented couple or households, rather than single individuals. We can't say for sure how representative the responses are of the entire congregation.

Members of St. Matthew's give to a wide variety of charities.  Respondents listed 200 separate organizations to which they gave money in the past year and 33 organizations aside from the church to which they had donated time.  These figures are likely an underestimate since many members did not respond.

Compared to others in the Twin Cities, St. Matthew's members donate a higher proportion of their income.  In 2012, the Chronicle of Philanthropy did a comprehensive survey of charitable giving in the United States, using income tax records.  Nationally, households donated an average of 4.7% of their disposable income.  Surprisingly, the Twin Cities ranked 229th among metropolitan areas in this with a donation percentage of 4.2%.  This relatively low percentage is partly explained by demographic factors- -the donation percentage goes down as incomes go up and membership in organized religion goes down.  The deep south at 5.2% and cities with high concentrations of religious households, such as Provo, Utah at 13.2% have the highest giving percentages.

In the Generosity Survey, 71% of St. Matthew's members reported giving over 5% of their income to charity and 42% reported giving 10% or more.  Even granted the methodological differences with the national study, it is likely that St. Matthew's members give more than their fellow citizens in the area.  Some of this additional giving can be attributed to their affection for St. Matthew's.  Fifty-four percent said that a half or more of their charitable giving went to St. Matthew's

St. Matthew's members are especially supportive of the charities that have special ties to the church.  Over 90% said they gave money to the Blue House (Hope Multipurpose) and over 80% said they donated time to Loaves and Fishes (85%) and Project Home (84%).  St. Matthew's members also give generously of their time.  63% said they donated 6 or more hours a month volunteering their time to charitable organizations.

St. Matthew's members appear to be intentional in linking their generosity to their religious convictions.  Nearly two-thirds said that they often or on a daily basis saw their work as a space for expressing generosity as a spiritual practice.  The stories of their generosity that they reported in responding to an open-ended question bore out this linkage.  Many talked not just of single incidents of generosity but of repeated acts of kindness to family, friends, neighbors, and needy people they encountered. 

When asked about what else St. Matthew's could do to encourage the spiritual practice of generosity, many reported that the church was already doing quite a bit.  Some of the suggestions for additional things included, linking service opportunities to discussions processing the experience, a column in Tidings highlighting particular volunteer opportunities, and finding more opportunities to volunteer as a family.