Churchgoers volunteering millions to our community

More hours and dollars coming from those in the pews

Australians who attend church are more likely to donate their time and money to the community, contributing almost half a billion dollars to the economy, according to path-breaking research released in Canberra by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

The research, conducted by Deloitte Access Economics, finds that people who start attending religious services as adults are 1.7 times more likely to be a volunteer – and 1.5 times more likely to make donations – compared with those who have never attended religious services.

“The monetary value of this volunteering time is estimated at $339 million.” – SEIROS report

“Religiosity is associated with 194,320 additional volunteers in Australia each year, who collectively contribute 30.5 million hours in volunteering time, or 2.4 per cent of total volunteering hours in Australia,” says the report, the first by a body called the Study of the Economic Impact of Religion on Society (SEIROS).

“The monetary value of this volunteering time is estimated at $339 million. We also estimate that religiosity positively affects the likelihood of an individual to donate. Our findings suggest that religiosity brings about an additional $142 million in donations each year, or 1.7 per cent of total donations in Australia.”

“In total, the annual value to society of volunteering and giving associated with religiosity is estimated to be $481 million.”

The report, prepared by economic modellers at Deloitte and based on a commissioned survey designed by SEIROS researchers, is the first to look into the general impact of religious belief on the Australian community. It is based on data from a national survey of more than 7000 Australians.

Neil Foster, a professor at Newcastle Law School who is on SEIROS’s board of reference, commented: “Australia doesn’t support religious freedom just for the economic benefits that religion can bring, but the fact is that religion does on balance amount to a force for good in the community. This research is just a start at exploring this whole area in a rigorous and evidence-based way.”

The study suggested a national survey be undertaken to provide data on the differences in the levels of volunteering and donating in society between those involved in religious activity and those not involved.