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Passing The Plate Among the Religious

A new study out Monday, June 6, 2011 finds that contrary to conventional wisdom, religious people are more likely to donate to causes that aren’t strictly religious than to those that are.

The study, conducted by Grey Matter Research and Consulting in Phoenix and commissioned by Russ Reid Company of Pasadena, shows that just 41 percent of donors who attend religious worship services regularly support a cause they described as “religious,” other than the contributions they make to their place of worship.

Instead, religious donors are more likely to have given toward disaster relief (68 percent), domestic hunger or poverty relief (66 percent), helping people with disabilities (56 percent), health care or medical research (54 percent), and veterans’ causes (52 percent) than they are to have supported specifically religious causes.

In short, religious people aren’t ‘lost causes’ for fundraisers and charity work that isn’t explicitly religious.

“There tends to be a stereotype that religious donors primarily support religious work,” says Ron Sellers, President, Grey Matter Research. “In fact, when our own research and other research has clearly shown that religious people tend to give more to charitable causes than do non-religious people, a frequent objection I hear is along the lines of, ‘Yeah, but they’re just giving to their church or to religious organizations, so that doesn’t really count.’ Many individual religious organizations I’ve worked with are shocked when, in focus groups, their donors start talking about how much they give to Juvenile Diabetes, Arbor Foundation, or Red Cross.”

What does this mean for cause marketers?

While Grey Matter’s study isn’t about cause marketing or donations made through cause marketing, it does set on its ear the idea that religious people sit on their wallets when they’re not at church.

Indeed, as Sellers says, “from our research and many other studies that have been done,” Sellers continues, “the simple fact is that religious people tend to be very good donors, and much of the money they give away has nothing to do with their specific denomination or with religion in general.”

The native sense of charity that many religious people exhibit means they are a good likely target for both fundraisers and cause marketers alike.


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