Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gender, Geography and Generosity

Did you ever wonder how your community's giving compares to other areas? Do you feel certain that rich people - especially men - are more generous? Would you guess that Democrats give more than Republicans? Two new reports provide some thought-provoking and surprising data about the role gender and geography play in charitable donations.

According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy's fascinating new report, it turns out rich folks and Democrats don't necessarily give more money. And geography does matter:
  • Rich folks who live in affluent communities donate a smaller share of their income than those who live in economically mixed areas.
  • Red states are seemingly more generous - the top eight states in annual giving voted for McCain in 2008, while the lowest seven supported Obama.
  • Religious affiliation strongly affects giving patterns - the most generous states are Utah and Idaho (where Mormons are expected to tithe at least 10% of their income), and the remaining states in the top nine are all in the Bible Belt.
  • But when contributions to religious institutions are removed from the equation, the geography of giving changes substantially - New York vaults from a pitiful 17 up to second place while Pennsylvania jumps from 40th to fourth.
This report documents giving patterns in every state and city in the nation, based on IRS records of people who itemize deductions. Here are some statistics from places near you. The first figure is the  median donation, the second represents the region's median discretionary income (funds available after basic living expenses are paid), and the third is the median percentage of discretionary income donated:
  • U.S.: $2,654 -- $54,783 -- 4.7%
  • California: $2,306 -- $54,000 - 4.4%
  • San Francisco: $2,180 -- $56,596 -- 3.9%
  • Sonoma County:$1,809 -- $54,304 -- 3.5%
  • Petaluma: $1,752 -- $57,580 -- 3%
  • Santa Rosa: $1,9717 -- $53,684 -- 3.6%
  • Marin County: $2,769 -- $56,585 -- 4.9%
  • San Rafael: $2,600 -- $63,620 -- 4.1%
  • Point Reyes Station: $3,166 -- $54,931 -- 5.8%
I'm pleased and proud to see that my hometown of Point Reyes Station tops the charts in percentage of giving - despite being one of the lowest income communities in Marin County. You can look up your community at http://philanthropy.com/section/How-America-Gives/621/

As to gender, according to a recent study by the Women's Philanthropy Institute, women age 50 and older give more than men - much more:
  • Women at every giving level donate a bigger share of their income and they donate in larger amounts.
  • In the highest bracket, women donate sums that are two times more than men at a similar level - for every $100 given by affluent men, women gave $256.
The moral of this story is: don't make assumptions about who will give and who will not. Your best prospect isn't necessarily the successful, well-to-do, older, upper class male who lives in an affluent community - it could be the woman from the Boomer Generation who lives right next door.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Carol! I've heard these conclusions in the past, but good to see some fresh numbers.

    The numbers are definitely affected by giving to religious institutions; it's probably not helpful to lump giving to churches etc. in with other nonprofits, since people probably see supporting their houses of worship as a more personal "obligation" than making voluntary donations to charitable organizations.

    Other reactions:

    I've often noticed that people with the least money are the most willing to give it to others who need help. In other words, there's a negative correlation between ability to share and willingness to share. One might argue that that is why those who have more means have more means--but that's a different discussion!

    People might assume that liberals, as people who seem to be more concerned about the well-being of others, would be more giving than conservatives,but that is neither so nor consistent with liberal ideology. Instead, liberals believe that the well-being of the disadvantaged is a communal obligation that ought to be addressed with public moneys, whereas conservatives believe that the well-being of the disadvantaged ought to be addressed by other individuals acting of their own volition. It is therefore consistent that conservatives would be more generous, as when they give they are exercising their desire to choose where their contributions to the public welfare should go.

    Finally, I don't know whether looking at giving as a % of discretionary income is as telling as looking at giving as a % of total income. I think that among individuals with a large propensity to give, they will do so even if they are giving away their non-discretionary income! Admirable, but I wouldn't feel comfortable soliciting them knowing that they would be giving my organization money that their family needs.

    Again, thanks for passing this on.