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America's Most Charitable States

The United States is the second-most generous country in the world, according to 2016 data from the Charities Aid Foundation. But not all states in the United States are equally generous. Residents in some states give more to charity or volunteer more free time to causes near and dear to their hearts. Below we rank the America’s most charitable states using those and other metrics.

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In order to rank the most charitable states in America, we looked at data on four factors. We looked at data on volunteer rate, value of volunteer time, the number of non-profits per 1,000 residents and the average charitable donation per resident. Check out our data and methodology below to see where we got our data and how we put it together.

This is the 2017 version of this study. Check out the 2016 version here.

Key Findings

  • A lot has stayed the same – Six of the top 10 states from last year’s study stayed in the top 10 this year. In fact all the top 5 in this year’s study were in the top 10 last year. The highest-performing newcomer, South Dakota, jumped up from 11th.
  • America, land of the charitable – Overall the whole country did a commendable job supporting each other. According to 2015 IRS data, over $222 billion was deducted from taxes for charitable donations, an increase of $12 billion from 2014. Over 62 million Americans volunteered, giving a combined 7.9 billion hours of their time. That volunteer time was worth $184 billion dollars according to the Corporation for National and Community Service.

most charitable states

1. District of Columbia

The nation’s capital retained its title as the most charitable in the country. Washington, D.C. has the highest concentration of non-profits in the country, according to our data. Residents here also volunteered their highly valued time to a variety of causes.

Our data shows the average D.C. resident’s volunteer time is worth $1,470, the second-most in the country. Residents here also donate the most to charity. According to IRS tax data, the average Washington D.C. resident donates over $1,400 to charities each year.

2. Minnesota

Minnesota residents spend quite a bit of time volunteering. According to our data, over 35% of Minnesotans volunteer, the second highest rate in the country. On average, residents spend 36.4 hours per year volunteering, almost a full work week’s worth.

In total, this volunteer time is worth over $960 per year. That’s equivalent to 1.5% of the average Minnesota’s household income.

3. Wyoming

Last year’s second-most charitable state takes third in 2017. Wyoming scored well due to the large number of non-profits in the state. Our data shows that there are over 71 non-profits per 10,000 residents. For that metric, Wyoming ranks sixth.

Wyoming residents are also generous with their money, at least according to their tax returns. The average Wyoming resident donates just under $1,000 per year to charity according to IRS data, the sixth-most in the nation.

4. (tie) Nebraska

Almost one in three people in the Corn Husker State volunteer for a charitable cause. By volunteering, Nebraskans are helping in two ways: They help make sure the charitable work gets done and also help charities save money.

Our estimates show that the average volunteer’s time is worth about $900 per year in Nebraska, which is money charities would otherwise have to spend hiring workers.

4. (tie) Utah

No one is more generous with their time than Utah residents. Our data shows that over 43% of residents in Utah volunteer. For that specific metric Utah ranks first and it’s not particularly close. Minnesota has the second-highest volunteer rate at 35%.

All that volunteering is worth quite a bit to charities in the area. According to our data, the average Utah volunteer’s time is worth almost $2,000 per year. Combine that with the annual $1,200 that Utah residents give to charities and you can see why Utah made our list.

6. South Dakota

There are almost 74 non-profits per 10,000 residents in South Dakota, the fifth-highest rate in the country. Over 35% of residents here volunteer, suggesting giving back to the community is a commonly shared ideal in the Mount Rushmore State.

In total South Dakota ranks above-average in every metric we analyzed.

7. (tie) Oregon

Volunteers’ time in the Beaver State is worth $978 per year, or the seventh-most in our study. Oregon also scores well in other metrics like percent of residents who volunteer and the concentration of non-profits.

According to our data, just over 31% of residents in Oregon volunteer. On average Oregonians put in 40 hours per year volunteering. This state also has 51 non-profits per 10,000 residents.

7. (tie) Virginia

Virginia ranks seventh tied with Oregon. Residents of the Old Dominion State have an average volunteer value of $1,140 per year, the third-most in the country.

The reason Virginia volunteer time is worth so much is because they spend so much time volunteering. The average Virginian commits 42 hours per year to volunteering and over 30% of residents volunteer.

9. Connecticut

Connecticut taxpayers are a generous bunch. According to our data, the average Connecticut resident gives just under $1,000 per year in charitable contributions, the fifth-most in our study.

The Constitution State’s volunteers’ time is worth an average of $834. That’s the 18th-most in the country. Additionally, the state has 52 nonprofits per 10,000 residents.

10. Washington

Our list ends in the Pacific Northwest, home of the 10th-most charitable state in America, Washington. Residents here seem to prefer to volunteer their time rather than their money, although they do a quite a bit of both.

Volunteer time in Washington is valued at $1,081 per resident, fifth-highest in the country and the average resident donates $791 per year. The most popular volunteering activity in Washington is fundraising, according to our data.

most charitable states

Data and Methodology

In order to find the most charitable states in the country, SmartAsset looked at data for all fifty states and Washington D.C. Specifically we looked at data for the following four metrics:

  • Volunteer rate. This is the percent of residents who volunteer. Data comes from the Corporation for National and Community Service and is for 2015.
  • Non-profits per 10,000 residents. Data comes from the National Center for Charitable Statistics and is for 2013.
  • Value of volunteer time per capita. Data on hourly value of volunteer time comes from independentsector.org. This number was multiplied by the average hour volunteered per capita, provided by the National Center for Charitable Statistics, to find the value of volunteer time per capita. Data is for 2016.
  • Charitable contribution per capita. Data comes from the IRS Statistics of Income and is for 2015.

We ranked each state in each metric. Then we found each state’s average ranking, giving equal weighting to each metric. Using this average ranking, we created our final score. The city with the best average score received a 100. The city with the worst average score received a 0.

Tips for Making Charitable Donations

Did you know you could deduct your charitable donations from your taxes? Here are some tips to make the most out of your giving.

  • Just because you are giving to charity does not mean you should necessarily deduct the donation from your taxes. You should make sure your itemized deductions are greater than the standard deduction. If not, it probably won’t make sense for you to itemize.
  • Make sure you are donating to eligible charities. If you want to deduct your donation to a charity from your taxes, the charity you are donating to needs to be registered with the IRS. You must also prove you received nothing in exchange for your donation. Most charities will provide the proper documentation to make the tax deduction process as smooth as possible.

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

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Steve Debenport

Derek Miller, CEPF® Derek Miller is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh where he studied economics. He is passionate about using data to help people make better financial decisions. Derek is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® (CEPF®) and a member of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. He is a data journalist whose expertise is in finding the stories within the numbers. Derek's writing has been featured on Yahoo, AOL, and Huffington Post. He believes the biggest financial mistake people make is waiting too late to save for retirement and missing out on the wonders of compounding interest. Derek lives in Brooklyn.
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