(December 2000) ‘Tis the season to be jolly — and generous. Just how generous are Americans? Are they more likely to give to the Salvation Army bell ringer posted at the shopping center or to some other cause? What about giving of their time? And how does the United States compare on both fronts with other countries?

An index of charitable giving by state, released this fall, shows wide variations in giving among U.S. taxpayers. Residents of New England and some Midwestern states appear to be stingy, while those in the South and Mountain West give more liberally (see table).

Generosity Index

Five Most Generous States
South Dakota
Five Least Generous States
Rhode Island
New Jersey
New Hampshire

Sources: The Catalogue for Philanthropy Massachusetts 2000 (ed. by the Ellis L. Phillips Foundation); and information from the IRS Statistics of Income Bulletin, Spring 2000 (data tables from which were prepared by the National Center for Charitable Statistics, Washington, DC).

The Generosity Index, prepared by the Boston-based Ellis L. Phillips Foundation, is based on 1998 tax returns. The index measures the relationship between giving and income; it compares states’ “ranks” in income and giving, rather than dollar amounts. Only one in four taxpayers itemizes charitable deductions, but independent research indicates that itemizers account for roughly 80 percent of charitable giving.

Data from Giving USA 2000 by the American Association of Fund-Raising Counsel help put the state comparisons in perspective. Giving USA found that giving to religious organizations was the most common, accounting for 43 percent of total 1999 charitable contributions. The states that topped the Phillips Foundation’s list are known to have a strong church presence.

As for donations of time, Independent Sector, a coalition of nonprofits based in Washington, DC, found that 56 percent of U.S. adults volunteered their time in 1998. This was the highest level since the biennial survey began in 1987.

Comparing generosity across countries is difficult. Many other more developed countries have higher taxes and more generous welfare states than the United States. To put U.S. giving in some perspective, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Civil Society Studies (CCSS) have examined volunteerism. They have gathered data on volunteering in 22 countries, and expressed volunteer hours as a percentage of the total employment in each country (first translating hours spent into full-time equivalent workers, and then calculating the share of that number of workers in the overall workforce).

The CCSS data for the European Union, Australia, Israel, Japan, and the United States put Americans in third place in volunteerism. The top two countries are the Netherlands, where time given to charitable causes amounts to 6.6 percent of the country’s workforce, and the United Kingdom, at 6.4 percent. U.S. volunteering amounts to 5.7 percent of the workforce.

For More Information

Additional Philanthropy Resources

For more on the 1998 Generosity Index, contact George McCully, trustee, Ellis L. Phillips Foundation, 233 Commonwealth Avenue #2, Boston, MA 02116-2349; phone: 508-785-1935 or 608-246-4349; e-mail: gem@world.std.com.

For details on the survey by Independent Sector, go to its website: www.independentsector.org.

For more on Giving USA, go to the website of the American Association of Fund-Raising Counsel: www.aafrc.org.

For comparative data on volunteering in 22 countries, contact:
The Center for Civil Society Studies
Institute for Policy Studies
The Johns Hopkins University
3400 N. Charles St.
Baltimore, MD 21218-2688

For research on voluntary action, nonprofit organizations, philanthropy, and civil society, contact the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) at the following address:
c/o Indiana University
Center on Philanthropy
550 West North St. Suite 301
Indianapolis, IN 46202-3162
Phone: 317-684-2120
Fax: 317-684-2128
ARNOVA’s 29th Annual Conference will take place November 16-18, 2000, in New Orleans. A preliminary program for the conference appears on the association’s website.

Chronicle of Philanthropy: www.philanthropy.com

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation recently released a study called Cultures of Caring, which reports on the growing percentage of contributions coming from philanthropists of color. For copies, please contact the Council on Foundations (COF), phone 202-467-0382, or order from the COF website: www.cof.org/culturescaring/.

Robert Putnam (author of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community [New York: Simon & Schuster, May 2000]) plans a January release of results from his recent survey of 30,000 people and their civic involvement. See his website: www.bettertogether.org.

Two often-quoted experts on philanthropy are John J. Havens and Paul G. Schervish. Their most recent research is available from:
Social Welfare Research Institute
Boston College
McGuinn 515
140 Commonwealth Ave.
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467

The UN General Assembly proclaimed 2001 the International Year of Volunteers (resolution 52/17). The Council felt that a year designed to enhance the recognition, facilitation, networking, and promotion of volunteer service would help increase awareness of its achievements and potential, to encourage service from an expanded number of individuals, and to channel resources to such service. The focal point for the Year is the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) program: www.unv.org.