Another Top-10 List — Cities Where Americans Give the Most to Charity

This is the time of the year we enjoy the most in giving and sharing with others.  How much do we give?  Summary statistics from the Charity Navigator (the nation’s largest and most utilized evaluator of charities) include:

  • 2017 U.S. contributed an estimated $410.02 billion to charitable causes, setting a record for the third year in a row
  • 2017 charitable giving was up 5.2 percent or 3.0 percent after adjusting for inflation
  • Individuals accounted for 70 percent of all giving, foundations 16 percent, bequests 2.3 percent and corporations 8 percent

Where we give:

  • 31 percent  Religious Groups
  • 14 percent  Education
  • 12 percent  Human Services
  • 11 percent  Foundations
  • 9 percent   Health Charities
  • 7 percent   Public Benefit Charities
  • 6 percent   International Charities
  • 5 percent   Arts, Culture and Humanities
  • 3 percent   Environmental-Animals

How much and how many give is not uniform across the country as incomes, philanthropy and charity values vary at every level.  Once again I invoke the TINSTAANREM axiom — There Is No Such Thing As A National Real Estate Market or a National Economy.  The same is true when it comes to charitable giving.

While giving can be more than actual money (such as volunteering, giving blood, manning the Salvation Army’s Red Kettles, or working with food banks and kitchens, as examples), money is much easier to track and measure given the tax deduction that charitable giving creates.  Not everyone is charitable, however.

Rather than looking at the side of coin that asks how much we should give, it is much easier to go to the flip side and count how much we actually contribute.  In 2015, only 24 percent of taxpayers reported a charitable deduction on their income tax filing according to a study from the Chronicle of Philanthropy, down from 30 percent a decade earlier.   While many people are charitable, their donations may not show up on tax return given the minimum standard deduction.

To find out in which metros charitable giving is the strongest, SmartAsset examined the largest 200 and calculated the percentage of tax returns with charitable deductions.  Next they identified the amount of charitable giving as a percentage of total income as reported in the respective income tax fillings.

The following table (all 2015 data – the latest available) shows:

  • Charitable contributions as a percentage of percent of income – total amount of charitable contributions divided by the total amount of income reported in that metro area
  • Percent of tax returns with charitable donations – calculated by the percent of tax returns with charitable contributions divided by the percent of all tax returns with income
  • Charitable giving index – calculated by ranking the 200 largest U.S. metros on the two metrics, averaging the two and assigning a score of 100 to the highest ranked city and a zero to the lowest
  • Job growth rates  — not in the study but I added to show relative economic strength within higher-giving metros

Utah comes out as the big giver, with three of the top-10 metros located in the Beehive State. The South had  four or five (depending on how Baltimore is classified) and California and Connecticut one each.  In 2015, the U.S. average job growth rate was 1.93 percent.  All but two of the top-10 posted job growth levels greater than the U.S. average:  Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut at 0.71 percent and Birmingham-Hoover, Alabama at 1.06 percent.

To read the SmartAsset study which includes the top-25 cities of charitable giving click

To find out more about specific charities visit the Charity Navigator at   Be sure and check out all of the data from Charity Navigator ranging from scams, to taxes, charity ratings, donating non-cash items and a guide to volunteering.

Prior to giving be informed.   I urge all to take a look at Charity Navigator, see how much of total donations actually are effective versus administrative, read up on scams, and click through the site and examine actual income and expenses.  If the gift is large, seek tax advisers to allow the optimum giving after considering tax effects.

Happy Holidays.



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