Religious Organizations: Embracing Changes in Demographics and Expectations

Download RFP
Grant Thornton's 2017 State of NFP: Religious organizationsFaith-based organizations are experiencing significant changes among their followers, requiring these nonprofits to think differently about the way they foster religious engagement, solicit contributions, communicate with the flock and serve their communities.

Transformations in religious life are a reflection of a rapidly changing secular life. Consider foreign-born Catholics worshipping in the United States. In 1975, they made up only 8% of the Church; by 2015, that number had grown to 28%.1 As a result, Catholic churches across the country are seeing the need to offer services conducted by diverse officiants in multiple languages. Beyond worship itself, individuals are turning to religious organizations for personal and professional assistance as they establish themselves in their new home.

Expectations of congregants in all faiths are changing. In communications, there is a growing expectation of increasingly electronic, pervasive and transparent engagement. Seeing a printed bulletin at worship services is no longer adequate; worshippers want to receive weekday texts and Facebook posts — even Pope Francis has a Twitter handle (@Pontifex). Congregants also want readily accessible reports on activities and expenditures; they follow the money, rather than unquestioningly dropping cash into a collection plate. Donation patterns are shifting, along with demographics. Giving habits of younger members are different from those of their parents and grandparents; tithing is becoming a thing of the past as millennials, in this aspect of life as in others, make their own plans rather than accept those long in place.
What does this mean to religious and lay leaders? It signals that it is time to develop strategies to not only embrace and address these changes, but also anticipate and prepare for future change. In order to ensure sustainability and mission achievement,

read the full article for recommendations for more fully engaging with current and potential followers and constituents.

Visit the report overview for more articles: The State of the Not-for-Profit Sector in 2017
Explore our 2017 webcast series for trends, issues and solutions.

Contact Scott Steffens
Partner, Audit Services, Not-for-Profit and Higher Education Practices; Leader, Religious Organizations Sector
+ 1 312 602 8140

Matt Unterman
Principal, Advisory Services, Not-for-Profit and Higher Education Practices; Chair, Religious Organizations Sector
+1 212 542 9834

1 McGill, Brian. “Catholicism in the U.S.,” The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 18, 2015.