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The State of Church Giving through 2003



Chapter 7 Highlights



•     Recommendations to improve the measurement of philanthropy include:


•     Reports of philanthropic giving need to be adjusted by population and income, as are other national statistics. The Associated Press told the American public that a fundraising industry estimate of giving rose 5.0% in 2004, while the percent change in the industry estimate of individual giving, when adjusted for population and income, was actually -1.6%.
 
•     Utilize the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Expenditure (CE) Survey as the unbiased, broad-gauge benchmark of living Americans' aggregate cash giving to charity, until such time as the U.S. Internal Revenue Service makes summary Form 990 giving data available. Based on an analysis of CE survey data, Americans gave 1.12% of their after-tax income for charitable purposes in 2003 totaling $91.01 billion, with 72% going for "church, religious organizations."
 
•     A permanent commission with a Presidentially-appointed and U.S. Senate-approved chair, similar to the one recommended in the 1970s by the Commission on Private Philanthropy and Public Needs (Filer Commission), is needed to establish and maintain consistent national standards of philanthropy measurement.
 
•     U.S. Internal Revenue Service Form 990 line item information, drawn from charitable organizations' reports of income, needs to be made publicly available on an annual basis in composite, summary form by the United States Government. Such data, once it becomes publicly available in composite form, can serve as a sound basis for reporting annual changes in Americans' per capita giving as a percent of income.
 
•     Changes are needed in the Internal Revenue Service Form 990 to provide information about contributions from living individuals as a distinct category. In order to assist this development, the Unified Chart of Accounts needs to provide a meaningful category dedicated to contributions from living individuals.
 
•     A policy decision is needed to change Form 990, so that a nonprofit may choose between the governance categories of either faith-based or secular. Groups also need to be able to define themselves through the use of a standard classification system, such as the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities.
 
•     A peer-reviewed Journal of Philanthropy Measurement would assist with developing and refining standards of philanthropy measurement.
 

Philanthropy Measurement

•  Disparity in Reporting of Philanthropy: Chapter 7 of The State of Church Giving through 2003 (published October 2005), reviews national media reporting of philanthropy estimates in the United States, and provides recommendations to improve both reporting and estimates. [PDF] The chapter includes:
  •  Recommendation: "Reports of philanthropic giving need to be adjusted by population and income, as are other national statistics. The Associated Press told the American public that a fundraising industry estimate of giving rose 5.0% in 2004, while the percent change in the industry estimate of individual giving, when adjusted for population and income, was actually -1.6%" (p. 71).
  •  "The Key Role Played by the Associated Press" (p. 76-77).
  •  "Table and Chart regarding the Disparity between Associated Press Reports on Aggregate Charitable Giving Levels, and Giving Adjusted for Population and Income" (pp. 78-81).
  •  "Detail for 2005 regarding the Associated Press Headline and Lead Sentence Focus on Aggregate Charitable Giving Data, Unadjusted for Population and Income" (pp. 81-89).
•  Report Card: Chapter 7 of The State of Church Giving through 2002 (published October 2004), reviews various national measurement of philanthropy efforts, giving the combined efforts an "F." [PDF]




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