Advertiser Disclosure

Many of the credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which we receive financial compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). However, the credit card information that we publish has been written and evaluated by experts who know these products inside out. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse. This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers that are on the market. See our advertising policy here where we list advertisers that we work with, and how we make money. You can also review our credit card rating methodology.

The Most Charitable American Cities and States [2023 Data Study]

Alex Miller's image
Alex Miller
Alex Miller's image

Alex Miller

Founder & CEO

295 Published Articles

Countries Visited: 34U.S. States Visited: 29

Founder and CEO of Upgraded Points, Alex is a leader in the industry and has earned and redeemed millions of points and miles. He frequently discusses the award travel industry with CNBC, Fox Business...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
Keri Stooksbury's image

Keri Stooksbury

Editor-in-Chief

35 Published Articles 3230 Edited Articles

Countries Visited: 47U.S. States Visited: 28

With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now editor-in-chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

We may be compensated when you click on product links, such as credit cards, from one or more of our advertising partners. Terms apply to the offers below. See our Advertising Policy for more about our partners, how we make money, and our rating methodology. Opinions and recommendations are ours alone.

With Thanksgiving and the winter holidays around the corner, nonprofits and charitable organizations are readying themselves for “Giving Season” — one of the busiest times of year for charities in the U.S.

The season kicks off with “Giving Tuesday”¹ and runs through December 31. According to Network for Good, 30% of all annual nonprofit giving² takes place during this time. No matter the mission, issue area, or geographic focus, Giving Season represents one of the prime occasions to support nonprofit organizations. It is also when the nation’s most charitable cities — those that have the highest percentage of taxpayers donating to charity — are most active.

Charitable Giving by Income Level

More than half of charitable contributions are made by the top 1% of earners. Image Credit: Upgraded Points

While charitable organizations can raise funds through grants, events, and earned income, individual donations are a critical component of most nonprofits’ revenue mix. According to individual tax return data from the IRS, Americans donate more than $215 billion to charitable causes each year — with a disproportionate amount coming from certain segments of the population.

The largest share of total contributions comes from the country’s highest earners. Ultra-high earners — who bring in more than $10 million annually — donate nearly $60 billion per year in total. This figure represents more than a quarter of all contributions, despite the cohort representing less than 0.02% of all tax returns. Collectively, more than half of all charitable contributions are made by the top 1% of earners.

Charitable Giving by State

Select Northeast states and Utah report the highest rates of charitable giving. Image Credit: Upgraded Points

Charitable giving also varies widely by geography in the U.S. Many of the states with the greatest share of donors are found in the Northeast, which includes states where earning levels are relatively high. In Maryland and New Jersey, more than 40% of tax filers report charitable contributions, with residents of Connecticut and Massachusetts reporting donations on 39.6% and 39.1% of returns, respectively.

Another standout is Utah, where 39.9% of tax returns include donations, and where the average donation of $7,041 was the second-highest among all states. Utahns’ generosity is likely tied to the state’s highly religious Latter-day Saints population.

Interestingly, some states have relatively low levels of charitable activity but higher contributions among those who do donate. Wyoming has the nation’s largest average donation at $7,995 despite ranking 45th by share of returns with charitable contributions. Similarly, Arkansas — notably home to the Walton family — has the third-largest average contribution at $6,021 but ranks 42nd by share of contributions.

Charitable Giving by Metropolitan Area

At the local level, rates of charitable giving are also well correlated with income levels.

While 32.9% of taxpayers report charitable donations nationally, that rate exceeds 40% in affluent metropolitan areas such as Washington, D.C., Boston, and San Francisco. However, 2 of the top 3 metropolitan areas overall for rates of charitable giving are located in Utah: Provo-Orem (48.6%) and Logan (45.2%).

On the other end of the spectrum, large metro areas such as Miami (26.8%), Fresno, California (27.4%), and Las Vegas (27.6%) have the lowest proportion of tax returns with charitable contributions.

Below is a complete breakdown of all U.S. metropolitan areas (grouped by size) and states ranked by the percentage of taxpayers who report charitable contributions:

Upgraded Points performed the analysis using the IRS’s latest individual income tax return statistics, covering tax year 2020. This year proved especially valuable for studying charitable contributions due to a temporary COVID-19 provision that allowed taxpayers taking the standard deduction to still deduct cash donations made to charity on their returns. The change provides previously unavailable visibility into giving patterns of the nearly 90% of filers who don’t itemize.

Methodology

The data used in this analysis is from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 2020 Individual Income Tax Return Form 1040 data series.

To determine the most charitable locations in the U.S., researchers at Upgraded Points calculated the percentage of tax returns with charitable contributions — including those tax returns where individuals took the standard deduction and those where deductions were itemized. In the event of a tie, the location with the greater amount of charitable contributions relative to total adjusted gross income was ranked higher.

Researchers also calculated the average contribution amount, which was calculated as total charitable contributions divided by total tax returns with charitable contributions.

To improve relevance, metropolitan areas were grouped into cohorts based on population: small (<350,000), midsize (350,000 to 999,999), and large (1,000,000+).

Final Thoughts

As the holidays approach, charities around the U.S. are gearing up for their busiest season. From Giving Tuesday through New Year’s Eve, 30% of the year’s nonprofit giving occurs. Giving Season also highlights America’s most charitable cities — those with the most taxpayers who donate to these nonprofits, providing a crucial piece of the organizations’ revenue.

Income levels play a role, as the nations’ highest earners donate most: Of the $215 billion donated to charities annually, more than half comes from contributions made by the top 1% of earners. Unsurprisingly, locations where higher incomes are common tend to see more of their taxpayers making charitable donations. But while some metros and states have fewer taxpayers making contributions, many see greater amounts gifted from those who do.

References

1. Giving Tuesday. (2023). About GivingTuesday. https://www.givingtuesday.org/about/. Retrieved November 10, 2023.

2. Network for Good. (2023). What You Need to Know About Giving Season.https://www.networkforgood.com/resource/what-you-need-to-know-about-giving-season/. Retrieved November 10, 2023.

Alex Miller's image

About Alex Miller

Founder and CEO of Upgraded Points, Alex is a leader in the industry and has earned and redeemed millions of points and miles. He frequently discusses the award travel industry with CNBC, Fox Business, The New York Times, and more.

INSIDERS ONLY: UP PULSE

Deluxe Travel Provided by UP Pulse

Get the latest travel tips, crucial news, flight & hotel deal alerts...

Plus — expert strategies to maximize your points & miles by joining our (free) newsletter.

We respect your privacy. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA. Google's privacy policy  and terms of service  apply.

Deluxe Travel Provided by UP Pulse
DMCA.com Protection Status