The Scientific Study of Giving

In a couple of weeks I am going to join a group of academics and researchers being convened by the Lake Institute at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.  The purpose is to have a roundtable discussion on a review of recent literature on faith and giving.  They sent out the forty-three page report ahead of time and I thought some of the observations might be interesting to a wider audience.  As far as I know nothing is proprietary.  Again these are just quotes and observations that I found interesting as I read.  Most of them are predictable and common sense.  Some are thought provoking.  Some are well I’ll let you decide.   I might have more to say when I get back. 

“There is a consistent correlation between a higher level of giving and belief in heaven and hell.”  

“Skepticism about the role of government in redistributing wealth strong families and personal entrepreneurism led to higher levels of giving. American liberals give less because their attitude toward government crowds out their sense of responsibility toward caring for the poor.” 

“Religious participants were more likely than the non-religious to give to charity only on Sundays when appeals to charity were 300% more effective to the religious.” 

“Giving to religious organizations increases with age whereas giving to non-religious causes does not.” 

“Pastoral leadership qualities such as emotional intelligence were related to parishioner satisfaction but not to attendance or giving.” 

“Large congregations of the most popular denomination in an area attracted the most free riders in terms of lower giving but not in terms of attendance.  That is financial free riders attended because they were attracted by the network benefits but did not give.”  

I saved this one for last because I have read and re-read it but am still not sure what it means.  “”The operationalization of giving privileges the level of sacrifice individuals make and is thus amenable to addressing notions of free riding at the individual level.” 

If you want to read more along these lines you can go to http://generosityresearch.nd.edu/ at the University of Notre Dame.  It is a study funded with a  $5 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

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