Religious Donors Give Broadly, Are Less Risk-Averse, Study Finds

Donors who feel a close connection to their faith traditions are not only more likely to give, they are more likely to give to broad-based causes and willing to support as yet unproven organizations, a report from finds.

The report, (11 pages, PDF), found that donors who attend religious services at least once a month were more willing than those who do not attend services as often to contribute to an organization that offers a different approach to a social problem. Among Jewish donors, those who are deeply engaged with their religious community were significantly more likely to support an unproven charitable group or solution than those who are not deeply engaged. The study also found that donors under the age of 40, those with household incomes of at least $100,000, and those who self-identify as liberals were more likely to be tolerant of risk than were older donors, those with lower household incomes, and moderates or conservatives.

According to the report, 66 percent of donors said they give only to well-known organizations with a track record of trustworthiness, while 55 percent say they give only to well-known organizations with a track record of success, with similar percentages among donors with higher levels of religious engagement and those with lower household incomes. Younger and higher-income Jewish donors, however, were just as, if not more, likely to focus on success as on trustworthiness.

The last in a series of reports based on data from the National Study of American Religious Giving and the National Study of American Jewish Giving, the report also found that people who give through socially activated mechanisms such as giving circles, crowdfunding, and microlending are younger, attend religious services more frequently, and are more likely to be parents. In addition, donors with strong religious connections are more likely to support religiously identified organizations that serve all beneficiaries, regardless of religious affiliation. Jewish donors with higher levels of Jewish social engagement, as well as men, those under the age of 40, and individuals with household incomes of at least $100,000 were more likely to support a Jewish organization if they know it serves non-Jewish people and causes.

"Connection fuels innovation — not the other way around," said Jumpstart co-founder and COO Joshua Avedon, who co-authored the report. "Organizations that use unproven programming as a way to engage prospective donors are looking through the wrong end of the telescope. Don't be afraid of asking your existing supporters to do new things and take risks."

"." Jumpstart Press Release 10/27/2014.