The 30 Most Generous Cities in the United States

Lemon Tree Images / Shutterstock.com
Lemon Tree Images / Shutterstock.com

Americans love to give, even those of us who are not rich. Giving makes us feel good and, beyond that, allows us to make deductions from our taxable income. These donations help fill the coffers of charitable organizations across the country — among them food banks, animal rescue groups, environmental protection groups and other nonprofits.

Where, though, is the money raised and used most effectively?

For the past 12 years, independent watchdog organization Charity Navigator has been ranking the 30 largest U.S. metro areas according to their philanthropy.

The total value of donations raised by charities in each city is just one factor considered in the ranking. Charity Navigator also analyzes the inner workings of the cities’ largest nonprofits — including their financial, accountability and transparency practices — as well as “size metrics,” which include nonprofits’ expenses and revenues, assets and liabilities and CEO compensation.

The Charity Navigator rankings essentially give you a snapshot of each city’s generosity, as well as the health and efficiency of its nonprofit scene. Can you guess where your metro area ranks?

30. Cincinnati

anthony-heflin / Shutterstock.com
anthony-heflin / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 85.73

Cincinnati ranked last in charitable giving among the 30 largest metro areas included in Charity Navigator’s Metro Market Study for 2016. Nearly half of its charities are dedicated to arts, culture and humanities (25 percent) and human services (23 percent). Where the Ohio city fell down was in category of Accountability & Transparency, where it scored below the national average in five out of six measures.

29. Indianapolis

f11photo / Shutterstock.com
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 86.56

The Indiana city’s 51 largest charities had a median revenue of $3.4 million in charitable contributions this past year. The national median during the same period was $2.89 million.

28. Seattle

dibrova / Shutterstock.com
dibrova / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 86.56

Of the 156 largest charities in Seattle, 46 (30 percent) are human services-related and 31 (20 percent) are dedicated to arts, culture and humanities. Assets held by charities in the Washington city are well below the national median, but the sector generally scored higher than average in accountability and transparency.

27. Pittsburgh

esb-professional / Shutterstock.com
esb-professional / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 86.82

Pittsburgh charities have “the greatest surpluses” of the nonprofit organizations included in the study. At $12.3 million, the median value of charitable assets is more than double those at the national level ($6 million). The Pennsylvania city’s charitable sector is below average on all six measures of accountability and transparency.

26. Colorado Springs, Colorado

sopotnicki / Shutterstock.com
sopotnicki / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score 87.09

This Colorado town has more international (21 percent) and religious (34 percent) charities than the other cities included in the study. It moved up four spots this year from last year’s No. 30 ranking, but Charity Navigator says the aid organizations there are “less financially secure” than charities in other cities on the list.

25. Atlanta

rob-hainer / Shutterstock.com
rob-hainer / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 87.10

Charity Navigator rated the Georgia city’s charities the most efficient at fundraising in the United States.

24. Denver

edgeofreason / Shutterstock.com
edgeofreason / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 87.30

The bulk of the Colorado city’s charities are dedicated to human services (31 percent), the arts, culture and humanities (12 percent), and health (11 percent).

23. Washington, D.C.

orhan-cam / Shutterstock.com
orhan-cam / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 87.35

The nation’s capital ranks 23rd among charitable cities. Human and civil rights organizations made up the largest portion of the charitable sector, followed by human services, international causes, health and public policy, while religion made up the smallest slice. Charity Navigator also notes that the median CEO pay among charities here is $75,000 more than what’s paid to the heads of charity organizations in Orlando, Florida, mainly because of the high cost of doing business in the nation’s capital.

22. New York City

utbp / Shutterstock.com
utbp / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score 87.55

The Big Apple boasts 934 large charities, making it a “more crowded and competitive philanthropic market” than elsewhere across the United States. The biggest chunk of its charities fall into the category of human services (22 percent), following by the arts, culture and humanities (16 percent)

21. Philadelphia

f11photo / Shutterstock.com
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 87.62

The City of Brotherly Love improved its position on the list from 26th in 2015 to 21st in 2016. But its charitable organizations received median contributions of just $2.4 million this year, meaning the city is tied with Nashville for receiving the lowest median donations of all 30 cities on the list. The city’s charities scored high on accountability and transparency

20. Orlando, Florida

songquan-deng / Shutterstock.com
songquan-deng / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 87.70

Of all cities included on this list, Orlando’s charities devote the largest percentage of their spending — 85 percent — to their programs and services. The biggest portion of charities here are in the area of human services (38 percent), following by religion (13 percent).

19. Chicago

photo-ua / Shutterstock.com
photo-ua / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 88.02

The 269 largest charity organizations in the Windy City are largely split between human services (28 percent), health (18 percent) and the arts, culture and humanities (11 percent).

18. Nashville, Tennessee

f11photo / Shutterstock.com
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 88.04

At $2.4 million in contributions last year, charities in Nashville are tied with Philadelphia for having the lowest median contributions on the list. Nonetheless, the organizations’ mean financial score was above the national average, in part because of fundraising efficiency.

17. Portland, Oregon

josemaria-toscano / Shutterstock.com
josemaria-toscano / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 88.13

Nearly 1 in 3 of the 84 largest charities in this Oregon city are dedicated to human services-related work. An additional 22 percent of the charities are nearly evenly split between the arts, culture and humanities and environmental work.

16. Detroit

susan-montgomery / Shutterstock.com
susan-montgomery / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 88.13

Considering the Motor City’s economic and demographic decline in recent decades and its continued struggles with unemployment and poverty, it should come as no surprise that a whopping 37.3 percent of Detroit’s 75 largest charities are dedicated to human services work. Other top charities in the Michigan city focus on community development and the arts, culture and humanities.

15. Los Angeles

sean-pavone / Shutterstock.com
sean-pavone / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 88.16

With median annual contributions of $4.1 million, Charity Navigator says charities in L.A. have the second-highest median contributions — after Houston — of the 30 cities included in its list.

14. Boston

holbox / Shutterstock.com
holbox / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 88.21

Boston is home to 262 large charities. Human services charities make up nearly 27 percent of the aid organizations there. Education (12 percent), the arts, culture and humanities (15 percent) and health (11.5 percent) also made up significant portions of the charitable sector.

13. San Francisco

alessandro-colle / Shutterstock.com
alessandro-colle / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 88.25

The City by the Bay has more environment-related charitable organizations (11 percent) than any other city included on the list.

12. Kansas City

wallace-weeks / Shutterstock.com
wallace-weeks / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 88.36

Kansas City earns high marks for its charities’ commitment to being accountable and transparent with their fundraising efforts. The largest portion of charities in the metro that straddles the Kansas-Missouri border are human services organizations (38 percent) following by religious charities (12 percent).

11. Milwaukee

mark-herreid / Shutterstock.com
mark-herreid / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 88.42

The Wisconsin city has a greater portion of its charities in the area of arts, culture and humanities (23 percent) than the 29 other cities included in Charity Navigator’s 2016 Metro Market Study.

10. Cleveland

rudy-balasko / Shutterstock.com
rudy-balasko / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 88.55

The Ohio city has more of its charities dedicated to community development (19 percent) than the other cities on this list.

9. Baltimore

sean-pavone / Shutterstock.com
sean-pavone / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 88.66

Charities in the Maryland city earn some of the highest scores in the nation for their commitment to being accountable and transparent with their operations.

8. Phoenix

bryan-neuswanger / Shutterstock.com
bryan-neuswanger / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 88.68

The nonprofit charities located in the Arizona city are the fastest-growing in the nation, according to Charity Navigator. Phoenix charities also earned a thumbs-up for being accountable and transparent. Human services (34 percent) and health (16 percent) account for half of the city’s charities.

7. Miami

littleny / Shutterstock.com
littleny / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 88.88

More than 1 in 3 charities (37 percent) in the Florida city are focused on human services work.

6. Minneapolis/St. Paul

photo-ua / Shutterstock.com
photo-ua / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 89.04

Of the 170 largest charities in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, more than 11 percent have an international focus.

5. San Diego

joseph-sohm / Shutterstock.com
joseph-sohm / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 89.24

Charities in this California city earn top marks for being accountable and transparent.

4. Dallas

mandritoiu / Shutterstock.com
mandritoiu / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 89.24

With a median of $3.8 million collected by charities in this Texas city last year, the “Big D” has the third-highest median contributions of any city on the list. The largest portion of these charities (39 percent) are dedicated to health and human services, while the next largest segment is made up of religious charities (18 percent).

3. Tampa/St. Petersburg

kevin-j-king / Shutterstock.com
kevin-j-king / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 89.46

This Florida metro area made a huge leap in this year’s Charity Navigator study, jumping from 27th place last year to third place in 2016 as its charities exhibited improved financial performance and better accountability and transparency practices. Tampa and St. Petersburg have more animal (11 percent) and health (19 percent) charities than other cities in the study.

2. St. Louis

f11photo / Shutterstock.com
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 89.68

Although St. Louis dropped from the top 10 list of the most charitable cities in the U.S. in 2015, it’s proud to be back near the top of the list this year. The largest charity organizations in the Missouri city are “generally richer in working capital and have lower liability to asset ratios” than charity groups in other regions of the United States, putting them among the most financially secure in the country, says Charity Navigator.

1. Houston

simon-vo / Shutterstock.com
simon-vo / Shutterstock.com

Overall Charity Navigator Score: 90.16

For the second year in a row, Houston earned top marks from Charity Navigator as the nation’s most charitable city. Overall, the residents of the Texas city are “especially generous,” says Charity Navigator, with nonprofits there collecting a median of $4.3 million — the highest median contributions in the charity evaluator’s study. “The consistently exceptional performance of Houston charities confirms what people in Houston already know,” Charity Navigator President and CEO Michael Thatcher says in a statement. “Simply put, there’s a tremendous amount of philanthropic energy in that community right now.”

What charitable organizations are most active in your community? What’s your giving strategy? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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