How to spend our charitable dollars is a decision personal to each of us—but it turns out that where you live may be an indicator of how you give. Factors like demographics and economic conditions shape every city’s unique giving personality—weaving together to create the intricate fabric of American philanthropy. While national giving trends may sketch a broad outline of America’s charitable habits, zooming in on the data for a city-by-city look can color in the full picture.
To understand the full landscape of American giving, we analyzed 2018 giving data from 30 metropolitan areas—and dove in to understand how the priorities, concerns and values of donors across the country stack up. So, how is the average donor in Miami different from a donor in Minneapolis? And what are the top priorities for donors in Phoenix vs. Philadelphia? Take a tour of American giving trends through the rankings of top cities for giving by charitable sector.
Rankings for sectors that more strongly reflect a city’s identity—like education and religion—tend to remain more consistent from year to year. Sectors that are more driven by the public’s mood in the moment are likely to see more significant shifts in the rankings. For example, human services and international affairs are likely to see surges in giving related to significant current events or natural disasters. Environment and animals and arts and culture also saw significant changes in the rankings in 2018, in part because the overall smaller size of these charitable categories makes them more susceptible to fluctuations.
Current events are highly influential in the way donors make giving choices. In 2018, donors responded to the news and events in their area—which caused some cities to surge or drop off the sector rankings. The rankings for giving to the human services sector were responsive to natural disasters in 2018. San Francisco surged four spots to fifth in the rankings, driven by giving to support victims of wildfires that ravaged communities nearby. Similarly, Charlotte entered the rankings—fueled by disaster relief efforts related to Hurricanes Florence and Michael.
Shaped by a variety of factors such as demographics, education levels and economic conditions, there are also regional differences in how donors around the country prioritize different areas of charitable support.
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