SBC defies downward trend in donor trust in religious charities

Religious organizations including churches are no longer the most trusted charities among American adults, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) said in its 2023 Study.

Rather, donors hold the highest trust for veterans’ groups and not-for-profit hospitals, pushing out religious organizations from the top spot for the first time since the study’s 2017 launch, BBB said Nov. 27 in its 2023 Donor Trust Report.

More than a quarter of American adults (26.1 percent) said in December 2022 they held high trust for religious organizations, ranking third on the list and dropping from 32 percent in 2017, the BBB said in its 2023 report. Ranking highest in trust in the latest report are veterans’ organizations, 27.9 percent of respondents said, followed by not-for-profit hospitals at 27.1 percent.

Despite the change, giving through various Southern Baptist channels continues to grow, including record receipts.

Specifically, the $203.7 million the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering received in 2021-2022 is the highest total in the International Mission Board’s 178-year history. The 2023-2024 offering season, launching Dec. 2 with the Week of Prayer for International Missions, has a $200 million goal. Giving in 2022-2023 surpassed $196 million, outpacing the $190 million goal.

Chris Kennedy, IMB’s chief advancement officer, said Southern Baptists and others support the offering and other IMB giving channels because of the organization’s proven record.

“They have 178 years of confidence in an organization that has a value promise of reaching the lost, and they see us deliver,” Kennedy said. “And another value promise is that 100 percent of what they give is going to go directly to what they intend to see it do. We are committed to ensuring that every dollar given goes to ministry impact, and not administrative overhead. So that’s an important value point of trust.”

The Annie Armstrong Easter Offering through the North American Mission Board reached an all-time record of $70.2 million in 2023, NAMB spokesperson Mike Ebert told Baptist Press, surpassing the 2022 record of $68.9 million.

“We are grateful that for six out of the last seven years, Southern Baptists giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering has exceeded previous records,” Ebert said. “We realize these gifts represent the personal sacrifice of millions of Southern Baptists, and we take great care and consideration as to how we steward these funds in the mission.”

The Annie Armstrong offering supplies half of NAMB’s budget, NAMB said on its website, and has drawn more than $2 billion since the offering’s 1895 inception.

Giving to Send Relief, the Southern Baptist compassion ministry, has increased annually since its 2020 founding, drawing $20.3 million in its first fiscal year, $27.7 million in 2021 and $31.3 million in 2022.

The BBB’s report, available here, cites findings from a survey of more than 2,100 adults in the United States. Among other top findings:

  • Older respondents, termed “Matures” and “Boomers,” continue to hold religious charities in the highest esteem, at 35 percent and 29 percent, respectively.
  • 18.4 percent of Gen Z respondents cite high trust of religious organizations, versus citing high trust of not-for-profit hospitals at 30 percent.

Rounding out the top five charitable categories are animal welfare groups, at 25.9 percent, and social service charities at 24.9 percent.

In the study, commissioned an electronic survey of more than 2,100 adults across the U.S., including both genders and a cross section of ages and regions.

— Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ senior writer.