Upgrade your browser to improve your experience. See recommended browsers

2016 Giving Report

The geography of giving

Rankings of the top cities by which charitable causes they support

Nationwide, Fidelity Charitable’s 132,000 donors make religion and education the top focus of their giving, mirroring national trends. But rankings of top cities for giving by charitable sector reveal how donor priorities differ across regions in the United States. The lists show that donor support often has a geographic identity as well as a personal one, with the needs and interests specific to a metropolitan area frequently reflected in donor grant recommendations.

The information presented in these lists ranks Fidelity Charitable’s top 30 metropolitan areas – which all have 400 or more Giving Accounts – by the percentage of local Giving Accounts that recommend grants to nonprofits across eight philanthropic sectors: arts and culture, education, environment and animals, health, human services, international affairs and religion.1

The lists include both large and mid-size metropolitan areas and offer a comparison of support among these cities. For example, Giving Account support for both education and arts and culture is greatest in the largest metropolitan areas, where a number of institutions that focus on these sectors exist. Meanwhile, health and human services each receive significant support from a range of city sizes. Demographic profiles are likely also important drivers of the way giving choices differ by city, with education levels, participation in religious or civic life, and diversity all playing a role.

Here are examples from five metropolitan areas illustrating how where donors live affects where they choose to give.

Boston tops in health care support

Boston is the number one region in the United States supported by Fidelity Charitable donors for the health-care sector. Home to several large health care organizations and teaching-and-research hospitals, including the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Partners HealthCare System, Boston has a tradition of building community spirit into its medical endeavors, such as through the Pan-Mass Challenge, a Massachusetts-based bike-a-thon. Boston residents also substantially support health-focused nonprofits located outside of the city.

San Francisco most supportive of animals, environment

San Francisco’s long tradition of environmental protection – the area is home to conservationist nonprofit Sierra Club, founded here in 1892 – extends to its philanthropic focus, too: City by the Bay donors provide more support to the environment and to animal welfare causes than does any other region. San Francisco also ranks first nationally in support of arts and culture organizations, such as public broadcasting.

Washington, D.C., leads international support

Washington, D.C., donors often think globally when they recommend grants. The city’s place atop the rankings for donor support of international affairs nonprofits reflects the diversity and world-focus of its residents. Most of these donor-recommended grants go to international relief charities and international development groups, from Doctors Without Borders and CARE to Amnesty International. The District also provides significant support to local arts and culture nonprofits, ranking third in giving to this sector.

Faith informs grant recommendations in Salt Lake

Donors in Salt Lake City rank highest among metropolitan areas in donor support to religious charities. The city is headquarters for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and many donors in this region use Giving Accounts to tithe through recurring grant recommendations. In Salt Lake, three-quarters of all donor-recommended grant dollars goes to local charities, the most of any other major region in the United States.

Donors in Detroit support human services

In the long aftermath of the recession, Detroit-area unemployment still outpaces the national average, and research from Feeding America shows that Detroit’s Wayne County has the highest food insecurity rate of all metropolitan counties nationally. Donors in the Detroit region have responded to local poverty by using their Giving Accounts to support nonprofits that provide human services, making the region second for grants in this sector. Donors in the Motor City and surrounding area make grant recommendations to food banks and shelters to lend critical help.

Geography profiles

Learn more about charitable support across some of our largest metropolitan areas.


The top cities for charitable sectors rankings are generated from a list of Fidelity Charitable’s top 30 metropolitan areas, by number of Giving Accounts whose Primary Account Holder’s address is in the area. These areas align with U.S. Census metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). This analysis is for the 2015 calendar year and uses data from Fidelity Charitable’s internal reporting database. The cities are ranked by percentage of Giving Accounts supporting a given sector in a region. For example, 3,790 out of the 6,747 Giving Accounts located in Boston support charities classified by the NTEE as being in the health care sector, which is more than any other city in the top 30 MSAs.

Geographic profiles spotlight some of Fidelity Charitable’s largest markets and cities of note, using Giving Account data and use from 2015. All metro-area profile data aligns with MSAs, aside from the Raleigh and Durham MSAs, which were combined for reporting purposes. Top local nonprofits include nonprofits listed within the MSA; however, in New York and Washington, D.C., national nonprofits listed within the MSA were filtered from the top 10 lists.

1Sector codes as defined by the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE).

Learn more in the 2016 Giving Report

Insights into our 132,000 donors and the different ways they give

Read the full report

Ready to get started?

Establishing your Giving Account is easy and only takes 5 minutes.

All you need is your Social Security number and, when you're ready, a $5,000 minimum donation.

Open a Giving Account

Or call us at 1-800-262-6039