Correlates Between Black Church Giving and Civic Engagement: Assessing Tithe, Talent, and Time

Team Members/Contributors

Sandra Lynn Barnes Vanderbilt University Contact Me

About this project grant for researchers

Despite a long history of philanthropy, research on Black Church giving is rare. Efforts have been undermined by: the tendency to focus on White churches; small Black Church sample counts; inconsistent maintenance of financial records by some Black congregations; and, reluctance among Black churches to make such data available to outsiders. Furthermore, it has been suggested that Black churches must now compete with secular organizations that provide Blacks with alternatives for meaning, resources, networks, and status. Some scholars suggest Black Church volunteerism and financial support have been undermined as a result. As one response to this research limitation, this project will examine the effects of civic engagement on Black Church giving (defined by volunteerism and financial support). The mixed-methods project will: include over 300 surveys and 25 semi-structured interviews of Blacks with long-term engagement in a Black church and a civic organization; determine the nature of both forms of engagement; and, assess whether and how the latter affiliation influences the former. The research questions are: How do respondents describe their church and civic engagement? What are their levels of giving to the two organizations? Does civic involvement foster or undermine congregational giving? Findings will have academic and applied implications regarding the continued financial stability of Black churches and their ability to meet congregant and community needs.