Left-Shoulder Giving

The blog post “Bell Curves and Giving” discusses the average age of your givers and shows that donors in their 50s are the single largest contributors to churches and non-profits. That is the age range on which churches most rely to support their current and future programs. If you visit a church where the average age is older than 60, then that church is likely in decline (unless there is a major endowment supporting the church).

The top of this bell curve are the 50-somethings. The 60-somethings and older form the right shoulder and it is shoulder with a steep downward trend. The overall amount of gifts from 60-, 70-, and 80-somethings declines very quickly for several reasons

  • they are not earning as much as they used to and therefore can’t give as much
  • they are trying to not outlive their money so they restrict what they give to their church and instead will give it as a bequest (if the church cultivates that gift)

The left shoulder is formed by 20-, 30-, and 40-somethings.

  • They are just getting started in their marriages, careers, and families
  • They often make poor financial decisions about cars, houses, and furnishings they purchase.
  • Many end up paying off credit card balances for years or decades.
  • Others are paying down college debt or establishing college funds for their own children.
  • Some are doing all of the above!

Left-shoulder donors have less disposable income than they want to have. They really, really want to give to their church, they just can’t. Churches should and must help them – almost no one else is doing something to address this need. When a church helps a left-shoulder giver get out of or decrease his debt, many pay it forward through their church. This seems self-serving but there is a biblical viewpoint to this – helping people, especially young adults, to understand that our society makes an idol out of money and that distracts them from worshipping God.

Every church with young people (hopefully that means every church) should have classes on Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University or Crown Ministries. Everyone in the church should read Randy Alcorn’s The Treasure Principle and/or Andy Stanley’s Fields of Gold. These classes and books provide resources that help people approach money from a rational and biblical point of view, not just an emotional one.

This is an important and urgent matter. If you don’t think it is, try this: take the current giving levels on your bell curve and fast forward 10 or 20 years to see how much money your church will have (realizing that many right shoulder donors will die). That should be a wakeup call to see how significant it is to develop left shoulder donors as fast as possible. Then, when these left shoulder givers are in their 50s or even before, they can be generous givers to their church and the causes that appeal to them.


Lead On!