10 Places Where Americans Give the Most to Charity

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Giving to charity
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This story originally appeared on SmartAsset.com.

About three in four American adults (73%) said they donated money to a charitable organization in the past year, according to an April 2020 Gallup poll. That’s a new record low, beneath even the charitable giving rate of the Great Recession era.

Although the coronavirus pandemic, with its elevated unemployment, may have made Americans less likely to steer their money toward altruistic causes, the generosity they do spread is something financial advisers strongly recommend to reduce their clients’ tax liabilities. Of course, not all places in the U.S. are equally philanthropic, so SmartAsset crunched the numbers to uncover where in the country Americans are most charitable.

To find the most charitable places in the U.S., SmartAsset compared the 200 largest metro areas by population across the following metrics (for which 171 metro areas had complete data available):

  • Charitable contributions as a percentage of income. Data comes from the IRS and is for 2017.
  • Percentage of tax returns with charitable donations. Data comes from the IRS and is for 2017.
  • Average charitable contribution amount. Data comes from the IRS and is for 2017.
  • Volunteer rate. Data is from NationalService.gov and is measured at the state level. It is for 2018, the most recent data available.
  • Hours spent per volunteer. Data is from NationalService.gov and is measured at the state level. It is for 2018, the most recent data available.

First, we ranked each metro area on each metric. We then calculated the average ranking across the metrics for each metro area, giving equal weight to each metric. Ultimately, we used these average rankings to give each metro area its final score. The place with the highest average ranking received a score of 100, while the place with the lowest average ranking received a score of 0.

10. Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Durham, North Carolina
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The Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina, metro area sees 29.95% of tax returns include charitable donations, placing it 21st in this study (a top 15% finish). On the state level, the metro area benefits from the fact that more than one-third of North Carolinians (35.1%) volunteer their time.

9. Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tulsa, Oklahoma
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Tulsa, Oklahoma, residents donate 3.59% of their income to charity, the ninth-highest rate in the study. The Tulsa metro area also finishes fifth in terms of average charitable donations, at $10,920. The reason Tulsa appears relatively low in our top 10 despite those two top-10 rankings is that only 22.11% of tax returns in the metro area include a charitable donation. That figure ranks 98th in our study, in the bottom half.

8. Richmond, Virginia

Richmond, Virginia
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In the Richmond, Virginia, metro area, 30.97% of tax returns contained a charitable donation, ranking it 16th on this metric overall. Charitable contributions represent 2.55% of income in Richmond, 36th-highest in the study out of 171 metros — a top quartile finish. Richmond also benefits from Virginia’s rank as the state with the 14th-highest average volunteer hours per person, at 103.29 hours

7. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington

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More than 28% of tax returns in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metropolitan area of Washington state include a charitable donation, placing it 34th out of 171 metros in the study. The Seattle metro area also places in the top quintile for its 35th-place finish for charitable contribution amounts, at $7,969. The Seattle metro area benefits from the strong volunteer rate in the state (35.7%) and the fact that the average volunteer in Washington volunteers 96.9 hours of time.

6. Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Maryland

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The Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Maryland metropolitan area sees 38.29% of tax returns include a charitable donation, good for third place overall. The Charm City metro area benefits from Maryland’s top-25 finish in the statewide metrics: 36.3% of Maryland residents volunteer their time (23rd place) and they spend 105.47 hours on average volunteering (ninth place).

5. Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, North Carolina-South Carolina

Charlotte, North Carolina
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The area around Charlotte, North Carolina — which includes towns in both North Carolina and South Carolina — finishes in the top 30 of our 171 total metro areas on two metrics:

  • 28th for percentage of tax returns showing a charitable contribution (29.14%)
  • 29th for charitable contributions as a percentage of income (2.64%)

The Charlotte area also benefits from the fact that North Carolina performs well on the state-level rate of volunteering metric, with more than one-third of North Carolinians (35.1%) volunteering their time.

4. Charlottesville, Virginia

Charlottesville, Virginia
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Charlottesville, Virginia, has the 12th-highest average charitable contribution in this study, at $9,791. In terms of how many residents of the area give to charity, 30.09% of tax returns have a charitable deduction claimed, the 19th-highest rate we saw out of the total 171 metro areas considered. Virginia residents give their time, too — the average volunteer racked up 103.29 hours, ranking 14th for that state-level metric.

3. Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City, Utah
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Salt Lake City benefits from the fact that Utah ranks well on two state-level metrics — volunteer rate (first place) and average hours spent volunteering (fifth place). In terms of metro area-specific metrics, Salt Lake City sees residents donate 3.94% of their income to charity, the fifth-highest rate in the study. The average charitable contribution for Salt Lake City is $9,307, ranking it 16th out of 171.

2. Ogden-Clearfield, Utah

Ogden, Utah, Union Station
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Charitable contributions are equivalent to 4.85% of the income of residents in the Ogden-Clearfield, Utah, metro area, the second-highest percentage in this study. A charitable donation appears on 33.02% of tax returns in the metro area, the eighth-highest percentage we observed. The metro area also benefits from the fact that Utah takes first in the statewide volunteer rate category, as well as fifth in the average number of hours a volunteer spends helping each year (another state-level metric).

1. Provo-Orem, Utah

Provo, Utah
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Provo-Orem, Utah, leads this list yet again, proving that residents in the home of Brigham Young University have serious charity bona fides. The Provo metro area finishes first in terms of charitable contributions as a percentage of income, with residents donating 6.68% of their income to others. The volunteer rate in Utah is 51%, ranking first for that statewide metric as well. The 2017 average charitable contribution for folks in Provo-Orem was $13,346, ranking second-highest in this study.

Tips for being charitable

Sign for supporting charity
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  • Seek professional advice. A financial adviser can help you make the most out of your money and help you strategize your charitable giving. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisers in your area in just five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisers who will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • A little budgeting for yourself can go a long way to help another. A budget can help you put aside money for helping others. Use SmartAsset’s budget calculator to get started allocating your funds.
  • Finances don’t have to be taxing. Giving to charity can have an impact on your tax bill. Use SmartAsset’s tax calculator to see just how big an impact.

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