Goodbye Recession doldrums. Things may finally be looking up for churches at least, which saw an increase in donations in 2010, according to a new survey.

The “State of the Plate” survey of more than 1,500 congregations showed 43 percent of churches saw giving increase last year, up from 36 percent the previous year.

The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) was a co-sponsor of this year’s research. ECFA recently was asked by Sen. Charles Grassley (D-Iowa), former chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, to lead a commission that will look into changes related to regulations governing non-profit charities and churches.
 

Dan Busby, president of ECFA, says “Sen. Grassley has said in the past that he wants churches to properly self-govern in financial matters. The State of the Plate research shows that a significant number of churches are concerned about financial integrity and accountability—94 percent make their financial statements available to members, 73 percent have a finance committee, 56 percent conduct an internal audit annually, and 36 percent have invested in a CPA audit in the past 3 years. Our research shows many churches are implementing strong financial accountability practices.”
 

This year’s State of the Plate research also showed that 39 percent of churches saw giving decline this past year. While Pacific Coast states showed the greatest declines in church giving in 2008 and 2009, the Southeast states experienced the heaviest declines in 2010. Smaller churches, those with attendance under 250, saw giving decline more than larger churches.

Whether giving increases or decreases in 2011 will depend on a variety of factors, said Matt Branaugh, director of editorial for Christianity Today International’s church management team, a survey co-sponsor.
 

“It’s critical for church leaders to nurture relationships with people and show them how their giving directly helps the church’s mission and their surrounding communities,” Branaugh added.
 

For an Executive Summary with charts/graphs/trends, go to www.STATEofthePLATE.info, www.YourChurchResources.com, or www.ECFA.org.