Almsgiving: What it Means to Different Faiths

Religion and charity typically go hand in hand. Faithful people everywhere seek to do good by supporting those who need the most help. In this article, we’ll look at what exactly “almsgiving” is and how five different faiths define it.

4 minutes read
Almsgiving: What it Means to Different Faiths

Charity comes in all shapes and sizes. Whether you’re donating money to your favorite cause, volunteering at your local animal shelter, or handing out food to hungry neighbors, you’re doing something truly wonderful for your community. 

Almsgiving is a specific kind of charity defined and expected by many religions. In this article, we’ll show you how five religions view almsgiving. We’ll also share some examples of almsgiving in action along the way! 

What is Almsgiving? 

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “alms” as “charitable relief given to the poor and needy.” Almsgiving, then, is the act of giving this relief – usually in the form of materials or monetary contributions. 

In short, almsgiving supports those in need with money, food, clothing, or other material goods. Most modern religions have some form of almsgiving as a primary tenet of their belief system.  

Collecting Alms with Donorbox 

Donorbox makes it easy for anyone to raise the funds they need to support their community. No matter what they’re collecting alms for, any organization can use Donorbox’s effective suite of fundraising tools to do more good. 

For example, International Aid Charity created a Donorbox donation page to raise over $43,000 to provide aid to those affected by the 2023 earthquake in Morocco. 

Image shows a Donorbox donation page an organization used to raise funds for almsgiving.

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What Almsgiving Means in Different Faiths 

Let’s take a look at what almsgiving means to these five different faiths.

1. Christianity 

In Christianity, giving alms is the equivalent of showing love to God. Along with tithing and making offerings, caring for the poor and needy is behaving in a Christ-like and holy way

Almsgiving is a popular practice during Lent, the forty days leading up to Easter. During this time, Christians commonly make small sacrifices, give back to their communities, and reflect on the sacrifices Jesus made.

Almsgiving in the Bible

There are several passages and stories in the Bible about almsgiving. One of the most referenced is in chapter 19 verse 17 of the book of Proverbs, which reads, “Whoever cares for the poor lends to the Lord, who will pay back the sum in full.” This means that God rewards almsgiving.  

Check out how St. John’s Church collects donations using their Donorbox donation page. They use the funds raised to serve up to 3,500 hot meals a week!


Screenshot of a Christian organization using Donorbox to raise funds for almsgiving.

2. Hinduism

Hindus believe that almsgiving is an act of pure generosity, and the giver must not expect anything in return. Almsgiving, or dāna, is an ancient tenet of Hinduism defined as parting with property or goods that you consider your own and giving them to someone who needs them more. 

While dāna usually refers to giving to individuals or families, utsarga refers to giving to benefit the public at large. These contributions are often given at temples and many temples have a donation box to collect them.

The Donorbox Live™ Kiosk app helps temples modernize their donation boxes by turning a tablet and card reader into a powerful donation kiosk. Collect donations with cards, smartphones, and smartwatches so your visitors never miss out on almsgiving simply because they don’t carry cash. Plus, donors have the option to share their email address to receive a receipt, so you can share how their donation has helped you serve your community.

3. Judaism 

Tzedakah is the Jewish act of charity, which often includes giving alms and is sometimes directly translated as “almsgiving.” It is a great, holy deed that negates any bad actions the giver has taken previously. 

In the Torah, the most righteous form of giving is setting someone in need up so that they can be self-reliant and one day afford to be charitable to others. Chabad centers often have programs designed to accomplish this very goal!

Chabad of the Hospitals is an organization that collects alms to provide comfort and support to people in hospitals in their area.

Screenshot of an organization using a Donorbox donation page to raise funds for their hospital support program.

Collect Alms with Donorbox

4. Islam

Giving to the poor is the fourth pillar of Islam. Traditionally, people give in two ways: voluntary giving, or sadaqah, and mandatory giving, or zakat.

A common form of almsgiving in ancient Islamic societies was to create a public drinking fountain, so everyone had fresh, clean water to drink. These fountains were called sabil, pulled from a phrase that means “in the path of God.” Now, supporting the poor may look like giving food for Iftar during Ramadan or giving more to an organization or masjid than your required annual zakat.

This organization collected both zakat and sadaqah to give alms to refugees. They raised over $40,000 to provide 15 days of groceries to as many refugee families as possible.

Screenshot of an organization's Donorbox donation page where they are collecting alms to support refugees.

5. Buddhism

Almsgiving in Buddhism is steeped in the tradition of monks and nuns making alms round, the process of begging their communities for alms and accepting them at the temple. Giving alms to monks or nuns is not seen as charity; rather, it is a spiritual connection.

Additionally, almsgiving is one of three parts of the path to enlightenment established by Buddha. Buddhists also call almsgiving dāna, and recognize that there are many motivations one may have for giving alms. While any kind of giving is positive, giving without the intention of personal gain is the most powerful. 


Each of the religions above has a slightly different understanding of what almsgiving means and how it works, but ultimately they agree that supporting those less fortunate than oneself is crucial. People give food, clothing, personal hygiene items, and money to those who need it – not just because of religious creed, but because it is the right thing to do.

At Donorbox, we strive to help organizations from all religions and backgrounds do more good. With easy-to-use tools and comprehensive fundraising know-how, we’ve helped over 80,000 organizations raise more than $2 billion. Check out all of our features and sign up today!

For more fundraising insight, check out the rest of our Nonprofit Blog. Subscribe to our newsletter for a curated collection of blog posts delivered to your inbox every month.

Lindsey Baker

Lindsey spent years wearing many hats in the nonprofit world. Whether she was helping arts nonprofits with their messaging and content, planning a fundraising gala, writing an NEA grant proposal, or running a membership program with over 400 members, she learned how to navigate – and appreciate! – the fast-paced world of fundraising. Now, she loves sharing those hard-earned lessons with the Donorbox community.

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