The most charitable cities in America (20 items)

By , Deseret News

Oct. 3, 2013

How can the “generosity” of any given city be determined?

A new report by Nerd Wallet has narrowed down what the group thinks qualifies a city’s generosity to two basic categories: volunteerism, and financial donations.

Using this metric, the Nerd Wallet study has compiled a list of the 20 most “generous” cities in the United States, and Utah is well represented.

The top three slots all belong to Utah cities, which received high marks not only for their high rates of financial donations, but also for the percentage of each city’s population that volunteered last year, and the average number of hours spent volunteering.

The high rankings of multiple Utah cities based on "generosity," or charity is hardly surprising, since just last June the Deseret News reported that the Chronicle of Philanthropy declared Utah the most generous state in America.

"The Mormon tradition of tithing is a primary reason residents of this state well outpace those in every other place in America," the COP researchers wrote in 2012.

Tithing donations, however, do not explain the high placement of Utah cities on the Nerd Wallet list, since it didn't look exclusively at charitable donations.

Then what is it about Utah that creates such a "generous" environment?

Some have suggested that religion plays a major factor, citing the fact that Utah's highly religious population (the Beehive State ranks second only to Mississippi in state religiosity) more easily lends itself to organized community service.

There are also those who say that religious affiliation simply inflates the numbers, arguing that tithing and other religious charities only benefit those within an isolated religious community.

Recent studies have shown, however, that those who identify as religious, such as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also donate to secular charities in high numbers.

According to a study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania last year, members of the LDS Church donate an average of $1,171 annually to social causes outside the church, and $650 a year to social causes within the church that aren't funded by tithing. That means the average member of the LDS Church gives roughly $1,821 in charitable donations on top of the member's tithing.

1 of 20. Lancaster, Pa.

Volunteer Rates: 30.5 percent

Volunteer Hours Per Year: 43.2

Percentage Income Donated (Median): 5.4 percent

Overall Score: 28.6

2 of 20. Charlotte, N.C.

Volunteer Rates: 30.2 percent

Volunteer Hours Per Year: 41.5

Percentage Income Donated (Median): 5.8 percent

Overall Score: 29.1

3 of 20. Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Volunteer Rates: 35.6 percent

Volunteer Hours Per Year: 48.0

Percentage Income Donated (Median): 3.9 percent

Overall Score: 29.2

4 of 20. Washington, D.C.

Volunteer Rates: 31.5 percent

Volunteer Hours Per Year: 42.1

Percentage Income Donated (Median): 5.5 percent

Overall Score: 29.3

5 of 20. Greenville, S.C.

Volunteer Rates: 30.1 percent

Volunteer Hours Per Year: 31.0

Percentage Income Donated (Median): 6.8 percent

Overall Score: 29.4
1. RBB
Sandy, UT,
Oct. 4, 2013

It all boils down to your view of the world. Is it a government obligation to help people or a personal responsibility. I am always amused by people I know who criticize conservatives for not caring about the poor, etc., who give neither their own time nor money. I personally believe that the more government gets involved the less motivated individuals are to step up and help their neighbors. Notice how many of the wealthy liberal cities made the list?

By the way, if giving to one's church should not count as charity, should giving to an art gallery or other charity that is likely to effect a small part of the community.

2. BYR
West Bountiful, UT,
Oct. 4, 2013

Waiting for Chris B to find fault....

3. Woogyboo
Oct. 5, 2013

This will bring more of the homeless to SLC. I am tired of pan handlers in downtown so count me as one of the non-generous.

4. mountainlocal
Brooklyn, NY,
Oct. 6, 2013

RBB: I think Utah can be very proud of their charitable givings and volunteerism. In regards to your question about govt obligation vs private citizens, look at countries in Europe that have lower charity donations but about 75% of the poverty rates as the United States. So then the question becomes, how necessary is it to donate to charity where the need doesn't exist because citizens don't worry about going bankrupt due to health concerns or loss of employment, economic upbringing, etc?

And while liberal cities like NYC aren't on the list, they, in essence, already fund cities like Salt Lake. Look at which states pay more federal taxes than they receive. Utah (and most red states) receive much more federal dollars than they collect. That money comes from states like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California.

5. RBT
West Valley City, UT,
Oct. 7, 2013

Mountianlocal they other thing you have to think about though is when you look at how much utah receives in federal dollars 70% of utah is owned by the federal government so then of course our state gets more money they are taking care of their own land but then when things like the government shutdown happen we can't even use these places cause the federal government owns them.