Catholic parishes—and the charities that rely on them—have been feeling the pinch of the financial downturn.
Contributions declined at more than half of parishes from 2008 through 2010, according to a new study. Roughly 20 percent of parishes said giving remained flat during that time, while 13 percent reported that contributions decreased at first and then rebounded. About 10 percent of parishes said donations rose.
The Center for the Study of Church Management at Villanova University analyzed the data 390 Catholic parishes provided as part of the Faith Communities Today survey, which was conducted by the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership.
Parishes’ budgets for charitable contributions were among the first victims of the downturn, according to the survey. About 55 percent of parishes reported that they reduced the amount of money they contributed to mission projects and charities.
Other responses to falling donations: postponed or canceled building projects or capital campaigns (53 percent of respondents), salary reductions or freezes (52 percent), delayed hiring for staff positions (30 percent), and layoffs or furloughs (22 percent).
As the economy continues to falter, some of the steps parishes have taken might become permanent, says Charles Zech, director of the Center for the Study of Church Management.
“One of the first things they cut back on was giving to charity,” he says. “That might be a permanent theme, that the church looks more inward and takes care of its own needs first as opposed to benevolences and charity to outside groups.”