Despite the daily doom and gloom economic reports, many faith-based nonprofit groups say they have exceeded expectations for giving contributions.
According to a survey of members of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, 72 percent reported that they met or came within 10 percent of their 2008 goals.
Dan Busby, acting president of ECFA, said parachurch ministries showed an increase in giving not seen in years. Such ministries rely heavily on charitable contributions to sustain their work.
"Many of the parachurch ministries we surveyed reported small donations of $10 to $100 were relatively unaffected, and in some cases, donations in this category increased," he said. "In fact, some of our members had the strongest fourth quarter they've had in years and ended the year debt-free."
Busby says most ministiries attribute the gain in donations to increased prayer and widespread interest in helping the poor.
To help stem a possible downturn in giving, many organizations contacted donors directly. More than 30 percent also told donors how their organization is coping with the changing economy.
Ministries are cutting back on expenses for 2009 by not increasing salaries and curbing unecessary spending. They also plan to partner with other organizations to share resources.
"Despite challenges, most remain committed to making positive operational and structural decisions, including developing contingency plans, which will enable them to continue to carry out God's purpose despite limited resources," Busby added.
But as economic difficulties linger through this year, many groups are concerned that giving could eventually drop.
"Most ECFA member ministries expect 2009 to be more challenging, primarily because major donors who made gifts in 2008 have expressed they may not be able to renew their financial commitments because of the economy," Busby said. "But for leadership and staff members, this is ministry, not a job."
Still, many groups remain hopeful for smiliar increases in the coming year. More than 300 parachurch ministries participated in the ECFA survey.