Shifts in the Church

We live in an ever-shifting landscape, and our responses to these shifts are what allow us to pivot and grow. Masterworks has been actively engaging with our clients over the past few months, discussing the fundamental shifts impacting Christian non-profit organizations, and how these shifts affect fundraising efforts. One of the significant shifts we have been focusing on is the changing demographics of the Church in America.

According to the Pew Research Center, over 80% of Americans identified as both white and Christian less than 50 years ago. However, this number has now dropped by half, and there is a growing trend away from the Christian church. Younger generations are less likely to identify with a religion, and those who do are more diverse.

If you are like me, you may have noticed that fewer young people attend church services. You may also have family members and friends in their 30s and 40s who do not prioritize religious affiliation or regular church attendance. These changing demographics of Christianity in America have important implications for fundraising efforts, especially for direct response fundraising.

Traditionally, direct response fundraising has been focused on an older, white, Christian audience. While this demographic remains a generous donor base, it is crucial to consider how future giving generations engage with ministries.

We can’t ignore the rapidly changing landscape. The print piece that performs well for a 75-year-old isn’t likely what’s going to get a 40-year-old to give. But that text you just sent them — or the YouTube video they watched — might inspire them to take action and give to your ministry. 

Language is also important. Different ages and communities have different ways of expressing themselves. Understanding who your key audience is — and how they discuss ministries like yours — shows that you represent the donor. Additionally, as younger generations become less familiar with the church, it’s important to evaluate how your brand wants to communicate with, and welcome in, the unchurched.  

Expanding your channel mix, testing offers, messaging, creative approach — even the language your copy is written in — all of these things will be important in the years ahead. To effectively engage donors and increase revenue, ministries must consider how they can communicate their message in a way that speaks to a broader, younger, and more diverse audience.

Where do you start? Take some time this week and talk with your team about the differences you have seen in the demographics of your ministry partners, donors, ministry recipients, volunteers, and staff. Then engage with your partners to ensure that your messaging aligns with your future goals.