Generosity of Residents, Quality of Charities Tell a City’s Philanthropic Story

December 19, 2013 at 6:05 am CST

This is the time of year when we hear stories about the outpouring of generosity that occurs in cities across the county. Families are helped and communities are strengthened through the work of philanthropic organizations or sometimes generous individuals. I firmly believe that people make a place what it is, and the best kinds of places are where residents take care of each other.

Crabtree Farm serves the Chattanooga area through education and advocacy programs that promote and offer locally grown food.

Evaluating a city’s generosity is a complex task. Perhaps that’s why community giving habits are not listed among factors used to forecast the livability of a city. But knowing how much support a community gives and how resourceful and open local charities are can give potential residents a deeper perspective into how the people in a city live. Thankfully, the group Charity Navigator took on the task of studying the performance, financial standing, accountability and transparency of charities in the country’s largest metropolitan areas. Their findings provide some insight into which places are the most philanthropic and thus, what the residents in these places are like.

The study revealed that regional factors, such as the cost of living, a market’s maturity, and a city’s tendency to support one or two specialized causes, greatly influence the ability of charities to raise money, manage costs, and adhere to good governance policies and procedures. Certainly these factors can also be used to assess a city’s quality of life and quality of character. For example, New York ranked highest for CEO compensation, but was near the bottom of the 30 cities evaluated when it came to what percentage of a charity’s total budget was spent on programs and services it delivers. Charities in Detroit hit the high mark there. Milwaukee ranked highest for total contributions given to charities while Orlando ranked lowest.

Topping this year’s list of the most philanthropic markets was San Diego, Calif. Collectively, the charities in San Diego hold more total assets, raise more money and spend more money than the average charity.

The Top 10 Most Philanthropic Cities

1. San Diego

2. Houston

3. Kansas City

4. Cincinnati

5. San Francisco

6. Minneapolis/St. Paul

7. Pittsburgh

8. Cleveland

9. St. Louis

10. Chicago

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