The data is clear. Americans give more in December than any other time of year. Among them, Christians give the most. Studies show 30% of giving occurs during the month of December. Even then, 10% of all giving happens over the last three days of the year. Evangelicals who attend church regularly give more than their peers, according to Philanthropy Roundtable.
Why? There are three primary reasons:
- Financial reasons. As the calendar year draws to a close, it isn’t unusual for people to have more money than at other times of the year. 87% of employees surveyed expect to receive a financial bonus. Some employees have their compensation structured so they receive a year-end bonus based on their performance or the company’s performance. The typical amount can be 4-14% of their annual wages. As people receive more through their wages, they have more to give.
Beyond wage growth, people have other assets that often appreciate over the course of the year. Their stocks, bonds, and mutual funds may be more valuable. Those who are charitably inclined often liquidate or donate these to their favorite causes. The PCA Foundation helps donors and the churches they support by regularly receiving gifts of these kinds of assets, liquidating them, and granting the proceeds to the churches (and other charities).
- Legal reasons. The calendar and tax laws combine to incentivize people to make charitable contributions. In order to make use of tax advantages pertaining to charitable gifts, they have to be made by December 31. Some may defer their giving until December for pragmatic reasons. Others defer their giving in order to see what their overall tax liabilities are at the end of the year, which may be alleviated through charitable giving.
There are other tax laws motivating year-end gifts. Senior citizens who have an IRA must make annual minimum distributions. Instead of withdrawing money from their IRA to cover personal expenses, they can choose to make a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD). As December 31 comes near, they realize they need to make a distribution from their IRA and direct it towards a charity rather than themselves.Many people feel the pressure to give by December 31 but don’t know where they want to direct those gifts. This is why donor-advised funds like the Advise & Consult Fund® have experienced tremendous growth. Donors are able to make a donation, receive an immediate tax deduction, and defer the decision-making about the Christian ministries to which they’d like to see those funds directed until they have carefully identified needs and worthy charities.
- Spiritual reasons. Though Christians may certainly be motivated by financial and legal reasons, they have a more powerful motivator during the holiday season. Christian generosity is stirred as we consider God’s gift of His son. The world tells us we need to spend our time and money pursuing bigger and better things. Yet, as we hear the story of Christ retold through sermons and songs, we are reminded of God’s lavish generosity in giving the unspeakable gift of His son. We are designed to be worshippers, not consumers.
If our goals are self-centered and self-seeking, then we are going to be hesitant to be generous with our money since doing so would hinder us from reaching our goals. Yet, if our goal is to be part of what God is doing in the world, then it becomes easy to be generous to those things that advance His name and mission. We think that if we had enough money we’d finally be free to live the way we have always wanted. Yet, what we discover is that instead of leading to freedom, we become slaves to our own desires.
The advent season reorients us to the truth underlying the world: Jesus is king. Since Jesus is king, our lives become less about being consumers and more about being faithful servants. We gladly part ways with our financial resources because we know our king is able to provide for our needs. As Christians, celebrating the Christ-child leads us to seek first His kingdom.
Since you can expect more giving in December, you should be more proactive in communicating with your congregation about year-end gifts. Make sure they know what they can give (cash, stocks, QCD’s, etc.), when they must give it (by December 31), and how the PCA Foundation can help. Of course, even more importantly, make sure they know why they should give: because Christ has come and He is Lord of all.