New Villanova and ACS Technologies study finds giving levels rebounding but inflation taking a big bite.
A new study released by Villanova’s Center for Church Management in cooperation with ACS Technologies looked at the impact of COVID-19 on giving levels at 989 parishes across 43 states. The study found promising results indicating that parish giving has returned to pre-pandemic levels. Yet inflation is taking a big chunk out of spending power. Despite the overall increase in giving among these parishes to $891 million in the post-pandemic period between April 2021 and March 2022, when you adjust for inflation, that number shrinks to $766 million in 2019 dollars, so parishes today have 11% less spending power. That’s what economists call the “money illusion.”
As costs of goods and services continue to rise, many parishes face increasing financial pressures. After all, inflation directly impacts every aspect of a parish’s budget, from utility bills to staff salaries and everything in between.
ACS Technologies and Villanova are working together toward a shared goal of helping church leaders understand the current state of giving. This will enable them to make adjustments that strengthen their ministry.
“Our partnership with Villanova to manage, organize and analyze five years’ worth of data from multiple sources brought to light meaningful, macro trends in giving,” said Steve Cumbia, vice president of data at ACS Technologies.
Inflation is one of those trends. Based on Villanova’s analysis of a random sampling of data collected by ACS Technologies’ popular MissionInsite platform, here are some strategies parishes can explore to overcome the inflation squeeze and maintain financial stability.
Budget for inflation
Budgets were strapped before COVID-19. They’re even more strapped now. One key strategy for dealing with inflation is to examine all aspects of spending and to budget accordingly. Parishes have no choice but to anticipate ongoing cost increases for expenses and adjust budgets to account for it. It’s also important to prioritize expenses and allocate resources to areas that are most important for the parish to continue to fulfill its mission. By budgeting for inflation and prioritizing spending, parishes can avoid being caught off guard by unexpected, hefty price increases.
Diversify revenue streams
Another way to mitigate the impact of inflation is to diversify revenue streams. Many parishes rely heavily on donations and tithes, but now is a perfect time to explore other potential sources of revenue. For example, parishes might want to consider renting out ancillary facilities for events or offering programs that generate incremental revenue. By diversifying revenue streams, parishes can increase their financial stability and reduce their reliance on donations alone.
Explore grant opportunities
Many organizations offer grants to religious organizations for specific projects or programs, especially related to poverty reduction, housing assistance, food stability, mental health, and so many more. There may be grants available from local foundations as well as city, state, and federal governments for programs that are already in place as part of the church’s mission. By researching and applying for these types of grants, a parish may be able to secure additional funding to support critical mission work.
Continue encouraging giving
It’s a tough financial time for everyone, but prayerful giving is still an important part of every individual’s faith journey and purpose fulfillment. By encouraging parishioners to be good financial stewards of their resources. And promoting responsible financial habits, which includes giving toward the church’s shared mission, parishes can improve their financial health too. Stewardship campaigns can increase donations and contributions to help offset the impact of inflation.
Inflation is a challenge for sure, but the findings of the Villanova study are promising. Getting to pre-pandemic giving levels is the first step. Now, it’s time to beef up efforts to increase giving. ACS Technologies can help identify and implement strategies to mitigate the impact of inflation. And can help get parishes back on the road to financial health. As parishes navigate this challenging financial landscape, it’s important to remember that they are not alone. There are resources available to help them overcome the squeeze of inflation.
Want to learn more about the results of this study? Attend our upcoming webinar, where we’ll take a deep dive into the findings and translate what they mean to church leaders.
Join us for a discussion on the study
Wednesday, March 15, 2023, 1:00-1:45 PM EST
Host: Terry Poplava
Director, Strategic Expertise
Guest: Matt Manion
Director, Center for Church Management
Villanova School of Business
COVID-19 Impact on Parish Collections
Download this valuable study for important post-COVID giving trends and analysis. See why giving levels offers some rays of hope for churches.
The financial impact on churches responding to COVID-19 was immediate and significant when the world shut down in March 2020. Religions that relied heavily on member giving during the Sunday liturgy were hit especially hard, including the Catholic Church.
This study takes a deeper look at giving trends.
Generosity and its overall decline, its need for communication, and its important stewardship role are one of the acute issues facing the church today.
To help your church in this area, here are some key resources:
For over 43 years, ACS Technologies has been helping churches address and overcome the obstacles they face, as they strive to Build the Kingdom. Staff administration was first. Then broader community engagement. Today we’re helping with the urgent issue of cultural intelligence. People have left the church, there is a decline in generosity, and generational attitudes towards the church differ immensely.
Our expertise through understanding the data and in-depth research is revealing and empowering to churches of all sizes who want to validate their efforts today to secure their promise of tomorrow. We walk alongside you. Enabling everyone in your church with a personalized ministry environment of tools, support and expertise so they can make actionable ministry decisions. This whole church approach focused on each role within each ministry goal is powerfully unique and eternally invaluable.