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America's Most Charitable States

The U.S. routinely ranks among the world’s most charitable countries. In the 2015 Charities Aid Foundation World Giving Index, the U.S. came in second (to Myanmar). But which states do the most to uphold America’s reputation for generosity? SmartAsset crunched the numbers to find the most charitable states.

Find out now: How much house can I afford?  

Methodology

To find out which states are the most charitable, SmartAsset looked at data for four factors: charitable contributions per 1,000 people, the value of volunteer time per capita, the number of non-profits per 10,000 people and the median charitable contribution.

We gave each state and the District of Columbia a rank on each of the four factors. Next, we averaged those ranks and gave each state a score based on its average rank. The state with the highest average rank got a score of 100 and the state with the lowest average rank got a score of 0. The ten states with the highest average rank appear on the map below.

America's Top 10 Most Charitable States

1. District of Columbia

The most charitable state in the Union isn’t actually a state. Washington, D.C. ranked highest in our study, in part due to the high number of non-profits headquartered there.

Charitable contributions per 1,000 residents are a high $1,253.17, the highest in our study. (These are charitable contributions used as tax deductions on federal income tax returns).

The median charitable contribution in D.C. is $3,734. That’s not the highest in our study, but D.C. boasts some big-ticket donors. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, 2015 saw 11 charitable gifts of a million dollars or more from D.C. residents.

Related Article: The True Cost of Living in Washington, D.C. 

2. Wyoming

Wyoming came in second in our study. It boasts the fourth-highest charitable contributions per thousand people, at $1,054.24. Wyoming’s median charitable contribution is $4,088 and there are 75.9 non-profits per 10,000.

The nation’s least populous state is doing its part to uphold America’s reputation for a charitable disposition. It’s also one of the best states for an early retirement, in part because it lacks a state income tax.

3. Utah

As a state famous for a high proportion of religious residents who tithe, Utah frequently ranks high on lists of the most charitable states. Our study found that the Beehive State has deducted contributions per thousand people of $1,122.55.

Though it has the lowest number of non-profits per 10,000 in our study, it makes up for that with a high value of volunteer time per capita and the highest median contribution of the all the states ($6,128).

4. Maryland

The median charitable contribution in Maryland is $3,496. The state boasts a charitable contribution per thousand of $880.72. Maryland has the second-highest value of volunteer time per capita ($1,569.87) and 51.1 non-profits per 10,000.

The spirit of generosity comes from the top. The state government administers the Maryland Charity Campaign (MCC), which lets state employees make tax-deductible charitable donations through their payroll deductions, like you would make contributions to a 401(k). Nearly 700 charities participate in the MCC.

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5. Virginia

Charitable contributions per thousand in Virginia add up to $686.80 and the median contribution in the state is $3,489. Volunteer time per capita is valued at $938.95 and there are 47.1 non-profits per 10,000.

Like Maryland, Virginia has a program that makes it easy for state employees to give to charities. It’s called the Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign (CVC) and according to the program’s website, “Since 1997, employees have donated more than $31.8 million to participating non-profit organizations through CVC.”

6. Nebraska

Don’t know much about Nebraska? Well now you know that it’s one of the most charitable states in the country, with $589.63 in charitable contributions per thousand residents. The median contribution in the state is $3,111.

There are 64.8 non-profits per 10,000 and volunteer time in the state is valued at $676.51 per capita. It’s another state that facilitates charitable giving among state employees. Between 2003 and 2014 the Nebraska Charitable Giving Campaign raised more than $4 million for over 400 Nebraska charities.

7. Alaska

The median charitable contribution in Alaska is $4,101. Volunteer time per capita is worth $741.80 and there are 66 non-profits per 10,000. Contributions per thousand are $424.34.

The Alaska SHARE Campaign lets state employees make charitable contributions through payroll deductions. That program, under one name or another, has been around for as long as Alaska has been a state.

There’s also a program that lets all Alaskans donate to charity a portion of their Permanent Fund Dividend (the check Alaskans get from the investment earnings of a bit pot of the state’s oil money).

8. Minnesota

The state of Minnesota takes charitable giving seriously. In 1999, Minnesota became the first state to pass a state-level charitable donation tax deduction for non-itemizers. That Charitable Giving Tax Relief Act is now a permanent part of Minnesota’s tax code.

Federally itemized contributions per thousand in Minnesota are $631.61 while the median charitable contribution in the state is $2,679. There are 60.1 non-profits per 10,000 and volunteer time per capita is worth $701.47.

9. Colorado

Colorado also allows people who don’t itemize their income tax deductions (i.e. those of us who take the standard deduction) to deduct charitable donations from their state income taxes. Contributions per thousand in Colorado are $625.23 and volunteer time in the state is valued at $777.52 per capita. There are 49.6 non-profits per 10,000 and the median contribution in the state is $2,958.

Related Article: The Cost of Living in Colorado

10. New Hampshire

Charitable contributions per thousand in New Hampshire are the second-highest in our study, at $1,155.33. Volunteer time in the state is worth $657.10 per capita and there are 57.2 non-profits per 10,000. The median charitable contribution in the Granite State is $2,053.

America's Top 10 Most Charitable States

Study Specifics

To find the country’s most charitable states SmartAsset used data on four different factors from four different sources. Data on deducted charitable contributions from federal income tax returns came from the 2013 IRS Statistics of Income. For each state and the District of Columbia we took the amount of the charitable contributions and divided it by the state’s population divided by 1,000 to get the contributions per thousand. Population data came from the U.S. Census Bureau..

Data on the total value of volunteer time in each state came from the Corporation for National & Community Service and was divided by the state population to get the total value of volunteer time per capita. Data on the number of 501(c)(3) non-profits per 10,000 people came from the National Center for Charitable Statistics. Median contribution data came from the Chronicle of  Philanthropy.

Once we had gathered the data on each of the four metrics for all 50 states and the District of Columbia we ranked each state on each factor, giving equal weight to the four factors. For all of the factors a bigger number helped a state rank higher. We then averaged the four ranks for each state state to get an average rank, which we used to create our top ten map and top 25 table.

Questions about our study? Contact us at blog@smartasset.com. 

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/franckreporter

Amelia Josephson Amelia Josephson is a writer passionate about covering financial literacy topics. Her areas of expertise include retirement and home buying. Amelia's work has appeared across the web, including on AOL, CBS News and The Simple Dollar. She holds degrees from Columbia and Oxford. Originally from Alaska, Amelia now calls Brooklyn home.
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