Pastor’s Page – June 2023

Dear Members and Friends of St. Paul’s,

At the end of April, I began an 8-week course online for an Executive Certificate in Religious Fundraising. Over the course of our time together, we are studying trends in giving over the last several decades; why, where, and how people give; motivations for giving; and especially examining our own and our congregation’s relationship to money, generosity, and philanthropy.

I have been especially fascinated by the study of why people give, and there are three ideas I want to share with you:

1. Did you know that in America, the #1 reason people identified for why they give to a particular institution or cause is that it aligns with their values? Perhaps that’s not particularly surprising. However, of those that responded saying this was their primary motivator, two-thirds said they didn’t know what they valued! I can only imagine that this makes it difficult to determine how to give in a meaningful way. 

2. Value-driven generosity has been an emerging trend in religious giving over the last 20 years. It used to be the case that the majority of givers donated to the church out of a sense of moral obligation, God-given duty, and a desire to meet the church’s needs. Now, there is an emerging group of people within the church that instead gives as a response to God’s abundant gifts, a relationship with the church, and to causes or projects that align with their values. You may find yourself identifying more with one side or the other, or find yourself somewhere in the middle. Regardless, if we think of these two views as languages, most of us are fluent in only one language or the other. That means that our leadership needs to become multi-lingual, or we’ll only be able to communicate with a portion of the congregation!

3. I have also been interested to learn about trends in how people give. In the church, we have always encouraged people to pledge their giving each year, and there is data to back up the value of this approach. However, only about 16% of Americans have a regular, established routine of giving and consciously decide on their donations. Similar to these planned givers, are habitual givers, who make a habit of giving, but don’t give their donations much thought after establishing the habit. Selective givers are more spontaneous, giving in the moment, but they base their decision to give on who is asking, the cause, their values, or how they are asked. What I found most surprising, however, were the impulsive givers. 42% of Americans identify as impulsive givers who “just decide” in the moment to give to various causes (consider “rounding up” at the grocery store), but they have no sustained, regular, or conscious commitment to charitable giving. You can check out the chart to see the full breakdown.1 Perhaps this helps explain why, here at St. Paul’s, giving to particular projects such as the roof, livestream, or youth fundraisers are so successful.

These “fun facts” will help us here at St. Paul’s as we seek to better communicate with one another about why and how we give of our time, talents, and possessions. However, even more important than the data is our relationships and our mission, vision, and values. We give when we have a relationship with a particular person or organization. As we build deeper, more genuine relationships, we are likely to become even more generous. And additionally, especially with the emerging trends in giving, we must strive to live out our mission and values, and seek to develop a clear vision for the future. As Henri Nouwen writes, “Fundraising is, first and foremost, a form of ministry. It is a way of announcing our vision and inviting other people into our mission.”2

I am always willing to talk with you about generosity, the church’s mission and values, your relationship to the church, and your desire to give and make a difference. If you’re not sure what you value, maybe a conversation would help! If you want do develop a deeper relationship with God and the church, let’s chat! If you’re uncomfortable or unsure about all this stuff, I welcome a conversation.

As we look toward the future of the church, we are invited to remember that the Holy Spirit has been moving here at St. Paul’s since at least our founding in 1867, and that as we live our mission of CELEBRATING GOD’S LOVE THROUGH SERVICE, the Spirit will continue to lead us into the future. In that future, God invites us to be generous with all that we have been given.


Rev. Jessica Hahn


Herzog, P. and Price, H. (2016). American Generosity: Who Gives and Why. Oxford Univ. Press. p. 121-123. Image credits: Herzog, P. and Price, H. (2016). American Generosity: Who Gives and Why. Oxford Univ. Press. p. 121.

Nouwen, H. (2010). A Spirituality of Fundraising. Upper Room Books. p. 16.