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Motivations for and Obstacles to Religious Financial Giving

Brandon Vaidyanathan
2009-01-01

This paper extends previous findings on religion and generosity by developing and assessing a conceptual typology of potential motivations for and obstacles to religious giving. Specifically, we examine “socialized giving,” “need giving,” “normative giving,” and “guilt giving” as potential motivators, and “wealth insecurity,” “giving illiteracy,” and “comfortable guilt” as potential obstacles. To investigate these mechanisms, we then combine behavioral and observational data, linking ethnographic and interview data with church-reported financial giving behavior. Data analyzed are from the Northern Indiana Congregation Study. Based on church-reported giving levels, interview respondents are grouped into high- and low-giving categories, and responses are analyzed for stated motivations for and obstacles to religious giving. Findings reveal how complicated it is to ascertain mechanisms driving or inhibiting people's religious giving, and highlight the need to be wary of relying exclusively on self-reported giving data. The conceptual typology presented here can be developed further in future studies that investigate the prevalence and origins of these types. Understanding such processes underlying religious giving becomes particularly relevant in light of the recent economic recession.

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