The Most Charitable States of 2015

April 6, 2016
Jared Kaltwasser

A new survey uses a variety of metrics to determine which states have the most charitable residents. The results might surprise you.

With the federal income tax deadline just more than a week away, many of us are probably re-evaluating our charitable giving, or, in some cases, reaping the benefits of a last-minute donation in December.

The Network for Good, an online donation and peer fundraising platform for charities, found 31% of total charitable giving on their platform last year occurred in the month of December. In fact, 12% occurred on the final three days of the year.

The National Philanthropic Trust found Americans gave a total of $358.4 billion to charity last year, for an average of about $2,900 per family. The former number represented a 7% increase over 2013 and an all-time high. Corporate giving rose to $17.7 billion in 2014, a 13% increase from the previous year.

Many give for religious reasons or as part of a holiday gift-giving tradition. Of course, there are also tax benefits to giving, which is perhaps one reason why 98.4% of high-net-worth individuals gave to charity last year, according to NPT.

So which states give the most? The personal finance website WalletHub recently posed that question. They looked at a number of factors — including non-monetary giving like volunteering – in order to rank all 50 states. Other factors included the per capita number of charities in a state, the growth in charitable giving, and the average percentage of adjusted gross income donated.

What follows are the 10 states at the top of the list for 2015.

10. Minnesota

Minnesota scored well in a number of categories. It had the second-highest percentage of its population donating time to a charity. The state also scored relatively well when it comes to honesty about giving. The gap between those who claim in surveys to give to charity and those who actually report giving on their tax returns was 35%. That might seem large, but it actually puts Minnesota in the middle of the pack, according to WalletHub’s findings.

The Sooner state comes in ninth place on this year’s list, after failing to make the Top 10 last year. Oklahomans donated the fifth-highest percentage of their total income, according to WalletHub. The gap between those who say they give and those who actually give was 40%.

Washington State holds steady at eighth place on this year’s list. The state ranked 14th in wealth when WalletHub looked at the richest and poorest states earlier this year. The gap between actual givers and self-reported givers in Washington was about 39%.

Georgia is another newcomer to the Top 10 this year. In fact the Peach State had the third-highest growth in charitable giving of any state from 2006 to 2012. The state also scored well despite being only the 32nd-richest state in the Union.

Tennessee surged to No. 6 on WalletHub’s list this year. It had the fourth-highest percentage of income donated of any state and, like Georgia, reached the top of the giving list despite having a low overall wealth ranking (Tennessee was the 41st richest state).

South Dakota actually dropped a bit from last year, when it was chosen as the second-most charitable state in the US. Still, the state has a strong track record of giving. The one black mark on its record relates to honesty. The gap between those who claim to give and those who actually gave was 52% in South Dakota, the second-highest total of any state.

Oregon rose from No. 9 in last year’s list to No. 4 this year. The state ranks near the middle in terms of overall wealth (27th) and has a low rate of false giving reports, with a gap of just 29% between those who claim to give and those who actually reported charitable donations.

Idaho stays at No. 3 once again this year. The state has the fourth-highest rate of volunteering and the second-highest growth in charitable giving between 2006 and 2012, according to WalletHub. All this despite being only the 45th richest state in the US.

Maryland is another big mover in this year’s list. It was No. 10 last year. The state had the fourth-highest percentage of people who said they donated money last year, and it also scores well in terms of the relationship between its wealth and its giving, ranking nearly as high (3rd) in overall wealth.

Last year’s winner, Utah once again wins the giving race in 2015, and by a significant margin. The state is at the top of a number of categories, including highest volunteer rate, highest percent of donated income, highest percent of people who have donated time, and highest percent of people who have donated to charity.

To read WalletHub’s full report and data set, click here.

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