The Most Charitable States/Cities in 2016
If you have followed my blog posts through the years, you will quickly realize that I am a very proud West Virginian. I love my home state and city of Charleston. While my head rests in Indiana, my heart rests in West Virginia. The people do not have a great deal to give, but will gladly give the shirt off their back to those in need. There is a special bond in that state. My wonderful late parents taught me all about philanthropy. They believed the joyous gift was in giving. That act provides a special feeling. When I see someone smile because of an act of kindness, I get tears in my eyes. I was recently curious to learn if poorer states give more than wealthier states.
According to an article titled “Why Do People in the Poorest States Give the Most to Charity?” the state of Mississippi had the lowest per capita income, while ranking second in charitable giving (defined as percentage of income given). Conversely, New Hampshire was 9th in capita income, but ranked 50th in giving. The only state in both the top 10 in charitable giving and per capita income was Maryland.
In the March/April 2008 issue of The American, an article titled “A Nation of Givers,” highlights that the most important explanation is a religious one. The South is home to a large number of evangelical Christians who believe in faithful stewardship.
WalletHub’s article titled “2016’s Most Charitable States” looked at 2015 WalletHub data across 13 key metrics. The data set ranged from volunteer rate to percentage of income donated to percentage of sheltered homeless. Selected top three states from various categories both high and low included:
- Highest volunteer rate: Utah, South Dakota, Minnesota
- Lowest volunteer rate: Florida, Mississippi, New York
- Highest percentage of donated income: Utah, Mississippi, Alabama
- Lowest percentage of donated income: New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maine
- Highest percentage of population collecting/distributing food: West Virginia, Kentucky, North Dakota
- Lowest percentage of population collecting/distributing food: Hawaii, Colorado, Massachusetts
- Most number of charities per capita: Vermont, Montana, Massachusetts
- Least number of charities per capita: Nevada, Utah, Mississippi.
Overall, the top three states that had the highest total score that included volunteering/service and charitable giving were Utah, Minnesota and North Dakota. My home state of West Virginia ranked 11th and current state of residence Indiana, ranked 29th.
When you evaluate cities across the U.S. that are the most charitable, according TIME, Washington D. C. is awarded the top prize. SmartAsset looked at data from all 50 states in four categories. These were charitable contributions per 1,000 people, the value of volunteer time per capita, the number of nonprofits per 10,000 people and median charitable contribution.
In another study, Barna Group, evaluated donations made to charities and nonprofits by percentage of population. The group analyzed data from telephone and online interviews with more than 76,000 adults over a decade. Based upon this research, the top 10 most charitable cities were:
- El Paso, Texas/Las Cruces, N.M.
- Lexington, Ky.
- Charleston-Huntington, West Va.
- Memphis, Tenn.
- Milwaukee, Wis.
- Cincinnati, Ohio
- Des Moines-Ames, Iowa
- Columbus, Ohio
- New Orleans, La.
- Norfolk/Portsmouth/Newport News, Va.
When we evaluate countries, states and cities for charitable giving, always remember we are evaluating individual giving in geographical areas. The article titled “16 Reasons Why People Give to Charities, and Strategies for Activating Giving” noted that motivations for giving are complicated. It also notes that chances for fundraising success increase if you understand the motivations of the person you are asking for a gift.
Here are the article’s 16 reasons why people give:
- Anonymous giving
- Name in print
- Eye on the prize
- Peer pressure
- Charity auctions
- Identification with institution
- Saved your life
- Benefit the community
- Provide an opportunity
- Matching gift
We live in a world of statistics, rankings and structures. The point of studying giving results should not only be what is given in time, talent and treasure by states or cities each year. What should also be studied are the changing motivations for giving and how we can encourage more people to give over time with a focus on reducing donor attrition, generating new donors and increasing gifts by current donors.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last nine years and has had the CFRE designation for the last 25 years. He has also been a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals for over 35 years. He received his doctorate from West Virginia University with an emphasis in philanthropy, masters from Marshall University with an emphasis on resource development and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with emphasis in marketing/management. Currently he is executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org.