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Giving Thought blog

Understanding and reimagining civil society and how we support it.

Charities Aid Foundation


27 August 2013

You might recall that last year we profiled a new report from the US – How America Gives – which provided a detailed look at patterns of charitable giving across America, and included a number of fascinating facts certain to inspire debate. This week has seen the release of the refreshed data, and once again features a number of eye-opening statistics.

The most generous states, in terms of percentage of income given to charity, retain a highly Republican bias, with nine of the top ten charitable states voting for losing Presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.


Given that, it isn’t surprising to see that those describing themselves as Republican voters were more likely to give to charity than Democrats. Interestingly, those registered to vote were significantly more likely to give to good causes and also volunteer their time, raising the likelihood that a person’s sense of civic duty has a correlation with their support for charities and community organisations.

Looking at the most generous ten states, it is only Maryland (in tenth place) that voted for President Obama in November last year. In order, the top nine philanthropic states are Utah, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina Idaho, Arkansas, Georgia and North Carolina.

Residents of Utah, the most generous state, give 10.6 per cent of their income to good causes. That perhaps isn’t a shock when it is considered that the Mormon Church, the dominant religious organisation in Utah, ask members to contribute one-tenth of their income as tithing.


It is the giving to religious organisations that skews the map towards the southern states in the ‘Bible Belt,’ with people living in these states tending to be more religious that the national average, and reflected in their relationship between charitable giving and religious causes.

The report also includes a focus on volunteering and found that 34.4 per cent of volunteer activity was associated with a religious organisation last year. The next most popular causes for volunteers were educational, social services and health.

As an interesting aside the report also looks at cities across the US, ranking them upon the levels of volunteering of their citizens. The top five cities were Minneapolis-St. Paul, Rochester, Seattle, Salt Lake City and Jacksonville. By comparison, the states where people were least likely to volunteer were Miami, Riverside, New York, Orlando and New Orleans.


There appears to be less of a geographical pattern when it comes to volunteering, with the states where people most likely to give their time representing the MidWest, North West, North West and South. The lack of geographical consistency is also reflected by the states where people were less likely to give their time.

The How America Gives report is interesting reading, and provides those interested in charitable giving with a number of discussion points. Perhaps one of the most interesting findings was the relationship between propensity to vote, and propensity to give, which suggests that those that can be categorised as more engaged members of society are also those most likely to give their time and money to good causes. This is certainly an area worthy of exploring in Britain, and it would be interesting if a similar relationship between civic engagement and charitable activity can be found here.