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State of Giving: Pandemic Trends Defy Ministry Expectations

Camps and conferences, a sector that had been dramatically affected by COVID-19 shutdowns, actually saw the biggest boost in funds and historic levels of support.

When the pandemic took off last year, evangelical ministry leaders had two concerns in mind: how would they continue their mission amid the COVID-19 restrictions and how would they stay afloat financially to keep operating into the future.

Many of those leaders are now praising God for his provision, as donations to evangelical nonprofits increased in 2020. Even organizations whose ministry activity took drastic hits saw outsized support from donors, according the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) annual State of Giving report.

During a year when cabins and retreat centers remained empty, camps and conference ministries saw the biggest boost in giving compared to any sector, with a 21 percent surge in 2020.

Hume Lake Christian Camps in California raised $7.75 million, around double the camp’s typical annual fundraising, to make up a $6 million shortfall. During the initial lockdown, camp staff placed 10,000 calls to reach out to supporters and pray for them.

Then the donations to its relief fund kept coming—from former campers who gave their life to Christ in Hume Lake’s cabins, couples who had their marriages restored at its retreats, and even a grandma who wanted to sponsor a new camper and wrote a check to give the $8,000 she made selling homemade jam at a roadside stand.

“People sacrificially gave to a ministry that touched their lives or that they believed so deeply in,” said John Boal, chief development officer at Hume Lake.

Other camps experienced similar levels of fundraising success.

“Donors stepped up and filled the gap,” said Jake Lapp, vice president of membership and accountability at ECFA. “We talked to many [in the camps and conferences sector] …

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