Donations to charities rebounded in 2021 among U.S. adults, although donations to religious organizations remained at an all-time low, according to a new Gallup survey.
Eighty-one percent of American adults say they donated money to a charitable cause in 2021 – a major rebound from a poll in 2020 that found a record-low 73 percent answering that way.
Donations to religious organizations, though, did not experience an increase, with only 44 percent of Americans – the same percentage as 2020 – saying they donated to a faith-based organization. It’s the lowest percentage in the history of Gallup, which began asking the question in 2001. Back then, 62 percent of Americans said they donated to religious organizations. In 2005, it was 64 percent before falling to 56 percent in 2009 and 52 percent in 2017.
Some of the decline could be attributed to the pandemic and the lack of in-person services or church attendance.
Gallup’s Jeffrey Jones, though, noted that the decline also mirrors the decline in church membership.
“Over time, as formal church membership has declined, so too have donations to religious organizations,” Jones wrote. “The 44% of U.S. adults donating to a religious organization nearly matches the 47% who belong to a church, synagogue, mosque or temple.”
Gallup surveys in 2020 and 2021 found an all-time low of 47 percent of Americans saying they were members of a church or synagogue. It was the first time the number had fallen below 50 percent. In 2001, it was 66 percent and in 2011 59 percent. In 2016, it had fallen to 55 percent.
Barely one-third (35 percent) of Americans say they volunteered for a religious organization in 2021. In 2017 it was 44 percent.
Overall, 56 percent of U.S. adults say they volunteered at any charitable organization in 2021. In 2020, it was 58 percent.
“A recovery in volunteering may be more elusive as concerns about COVID-19 exposure and public health safety measures limit Americans’ willingness and ability to perform volunteer work,” Jones wrote. “While there was hope earlier in 2021 that COVID-19 vaccines would allow Americans to return to their normal activities, the unpredictable nature of the virus and emergence of new variants has forced leaders and citizens to reconsider when – or if – the pandemic will end.”
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.