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How sites like GoFundMe affect faith communities

Posted August 15

Crowdfunding — the use of sites like GoFundMe to raise money for medical procedures, community projects and other charitable events — is changing the way people donate. This trend could be bad news for faith communities.

"There was a time, not too long ago, before the internet and the reach of social media, when there were just churches and community centers," writes Lyz Lenz for The Daily Dot. "The personal and the tragic were to be shouldered by your parish, your congregation, your groups for Bible study."

Crowdfunding has risen to prominence at the same time as many congregations have struggled to fill their pews, Lenz notes. People are now giving money directly to a sick child's family or a woman with cancer, rather than relying on faith leaders to channel their funds to worthy causes.

Religious groups still receive nearly $115 billion in donations each year and a larger percentage of overall donations than other charities, but faith-related giving is on the decline, as The Christian Science-Monitor reported last year.

Religious giving "has dropped from 53 percent of all donations in 1987 to 32 percent of the total in 2014," the article noted.

Additionally, fewer Americans today see faith communities as valuable contributors to efforts to solve social problems, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

In 2016, 58 percent of U.S. adults say churches, synagogues and other houses of worship contribute a great deal or some to solving social problems, compared to 75 percent in 2001, Pew reported.

However, crowdfunding doesn't have to be an enemy to faith communities, as religion writer Kaya Oakes told Lenz. "She says she sees potential for churches and communities to embrace all forms of charity to further strengthen the communities and relationships that support us in our time of need," according to the article.

Some faith communities are already using technological advances like smartphone apps to ease the donation process, as the Deseret News reported earlier this year.

"These apps are particularly attractive to young church members, who are used to using their smartphone like a wallet," the article noted.

Email: kdallas@deseretnews.com Twitter: @kelsey_dallas

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