That's a very interesting question. One problem with coming up with a
definitive answer is that different churches count their members
differently (some churches require only a profession of faith, in some
churches you're born a member and remain so even if you don't attend,
and others have a formal membership process). Also, not all churches
publicly reveal their total donations. I have found various figures
that aren't in full agreement, although they generally rank the
denominations similarly; in general, Mormons donate the most, followed
by some smaller conservative denominations, followed by Presbyterians
and Episcopalians, followed by Catholics and other mainline Protestant
In any case, I hope the following resources will be sufficient to
satisfy your curiosity.
First of all, a broad range of data is available in the Yearbook of
American and Canadian Churches, which is released annually. That book
is available in hard copy; the most recent figures I was able to find
online were from the 1998 yearbook. You can find the figures on this
1998 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches
From that page, I made a list of churches that were listed both my
membership and contributions, and came up with the following:
Denomination Contributions Members Per Capita
Presbyterian USA 2.3 billion 3.6 million $639
UCC .7 1.5 467
Southern Baptist $6.9 15.7 439
United Methodist 3.7 8.5 435
Ev. Lutheran 1.8 5.2 346
Lutheran (Mo.) 1.0 2.6 385
Note, however, that donations for Roman Catholic and the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) aren't public information
and therefore not listed. Episcopal donations also aren't listed. My
guess would be that the Catholics have the largest total contributions
because they're by far the largest church; on a per capita basis, the
Mormons almost certainly give the most among the major denominations.
A brief summary from the 2002 edition can be found on this page:
News from the National Council of Churches
That news release shows that the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian
Church (USA) were tops in the most recent survey with donations of
$1,155 per full or confirmed member.
Although figures aren't broken down by denominations, the following
analysis details donations by different groups.
Evangelicals Are the Most Generous Givers
The following 1995 study also provides further information:
Religious Resources and Church Growth
"Until quite recently, cross-denominational survey data on religious
giving was largely unavailable, However, in 1987 the General Social
Survey began asking respondents About how much do you contribute to
your religion every year (not including school tuition)? Though this
question is not without problems (most notably, in failing to
distinguish individual and household contributions), it provides
considerable insight into denominational differences.
Figure 2 graphs the average number of dollars contributed per
(self-identified) member across various denominations. Once again, the
mainline denominations place well below their sectarian counterparts.
The contrast becomes even more striking when we measure percentages of
income contributed to ones church. The Episcopalians, Disciples,
Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, UCC members, and Catholics all
contribute less than 2% of their income. Southern Baptists,
Adventists, fundamentalist/evangelicals, and pentecostal/charismatics
contribute between 2% and 4%. And Mormons contribute more than 5%,
nearly three times the mainline average."
A chart in that report shows Mormons and evangelical fundamentalists
as giving around $900 per capita per year, followed in general by
various theologically conservative churches.
More recent and through figures are available through offline sources.
You might, for example, be interested in purchasing the following
The State of Church Giving
That same source has general information available on this page,
although what's available online isn't broken down by denomination.
Most successful Google search terms used: church contributions "per
Other search terms used: donations, giving, denominations