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Alabamians are a generous peoplecomment (0)

January 3, 2002

Alabamians are a generous people. No matter how one figures it, studies show that Alabamians support charitable causes. The 2001 Generosity Index ranks Alabama fifth in the nation in terms of generosity. The Index, published by the “Catalogue of Philanthropy,” compares the average adjusted gross income to the average itemized charitable deductions to determine its rankings.

What is amazing about the ranking is that Alabama achieved this distinction despite its income levels, which are near the bottom when compared to other states. The Internal Revenue Service reported the adjusted gross income for Alabama taxpayers was $36,996, placing the state 41st among the 50 states. The national average is $45,539.

Despite the low income level, Alabama ranked 17th among the 50 states in the average amount of charitable contributions. The state average was $973 which equaled 2.6 percent of the adjusted gross income for the last year of record. Other states reported higher dollar amounts, but only Utah and the District of Columbia reported higher percentages of gross income for charitable giving than Alabama.

Why Alabamians give so generously is an open question. Part of the reason must relate to the churches of the state. About 25 percent of the state’s 4.4 million population are members of churches cooperating with the Alabama Baptist State Convention. Those 3,100 churches received about $575 million through their offering plates in 2000.

When the giving of other Christian denominations is added, giving to the state’s churches comprise a sizable portion of the state’s charitable giving.

One reason for this has been the historic emphasis on tithes and offerings in the free church tradition, the most dominant Christian tradition in Alabama. Members are not told how much they have to give. Instead, the biblical teaching of tithes and offerings is paramount. Tithing is returning to God 10 percent of what one earns. Offerings begin only after the 10 percent has been returned.

The large percentage of Alabamians who regularly make charitable contributions indicates the message has been successful, at least to some extent.

The “Chronicle of Philanthropy” reports another finding which is not so encouraging. While Alabama ranks high in studies about current charitable giving, the state ranks 43rd in future gifts created through wills.

Evidently, churches have not been as effective in communicating the need for financial faithfulness in one’s estate as the churches have in teaching financial faithfulness in life.

The Baptist Foundation of Alabama is trying to change that. President Barry Bledsoe has made education one of the Foundation’s top priorities for the new year. His goal is not to educate people about the Foundation but about the need for appropriate estate planning and the opportunities it affords to support Baptist causes.

Bledsoe said he plans to spend much of the year sharing about why Baptists need to do estate planning, about opportunities available through estate planning and about the services offered by the Baptist Foundation of Alabama.

Estate planning is a technical field and requires knowledgeable professionals to take advantage of opportunities and avoid pitfalls. The Baptist Foundation of Alabama provides such resources through its staff and a network of cooperating professionals across the state. Because of Cooperative Program financial support, services of the Baptist Foundation of Alabama are free of charge to those who remember a Baptist cause in their estate planning.

January is Make Your Will Month among Ala­bama Baptists. January is a good time to review one’s will to see if it still reflects one’s priorities. For anyone who does not have a will, January is an appropriate time to draft a will reflecting Christian stewardship concerns in one’s estate.

The Baptist Foundation of Alabama can help. For materials or information or to schedule a presentation in your church about estate planning, contact Barry Bledsoe at 334-834-9586.

Giving to support God’s work as expressed through Baptists is not just an expression of one’s generosity, it is an expression of one’s commitment to Christ as a Christian steward of all God entrusts to one’s care. Being financially faithful in one’s estate is just as important as being financially faithful in life.

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