I recently found an interesting study on chronicleofphilanthropy.com that explores the way America gives to charity. The information is broken down by state, income level, and more. Although I don’t believe we should do something just because others are doing it or that we should be trying to keep up with joneses; I do think that this data can be helpful in deciding how much you can or should be giving to charity. If anything it is at least a helpful resource for someone looking to start making charitable contributions who doesn’t know where to start. Here is a quick breakdown of the data I found helpful/interesting.
- The median (middle number in the range of contributions) charitable contribution in the United States by a typical household is $2,564 per year.
- The typical household claimed to give 4.7% of their discretionary income to charity each year. Discretionary income is what you have left over after taxes, housing costs, and other necessary living expenses It is important to note that according to this study the median income in the U.S. is $54,783. This accounts for the median contribution of $2,564 per year (above). Remember that half of us fall below that median income and aren’t able to give that much.
- It is more realistic to look at the percent of income given at different income levels in the United States as a whole. The data starts at a minimum annual income of $50,000.
- People who make $50,000-99,999/year give an average of 6% of their discretionary income to charity.
- People who make $100,000-199,999/year give an average of 4.2% of their discretionary income to charity.
- People who make $200,000+/year give an average of 4.2% of their discretionary income to charity.
Here are a few more facts of interest
- In Utah and Mississippi, the typical household gives more than 7 percent of its income to charity, while the average household in Massachusetts and three other New England states gives less than 3 percent. This makes me sad to say I am from Massachusetts.
- Utah is ranked number one in charitable giving and New Hampshire comes in last. See the full list here
- The eight states that ranked highest in The Chronicle‘s analysis voted for John McCain in the last presidential contest while the seven lowest-ranking states supported Barack Obama.
- Not surprisingly, religion plays a major role in how much money Americans give to charity. The parts of the country that tend to be more religious are also more generous.
Any charitable donation is better than not giving at all; and hopefully this information can guide you on how much to give if you’ve never done so before. It’s important to remember that when you give to charity, you should document it, by using a check, so you can deduct it from your taxes at the end of the year. IRS rules generally require a receipt or check to prove that you made the donation. Even the Salvation Army will give you a receipt for the value of say, a bag of clothes, based on their IRS approved value. The same goes for donating a used car for scrap or reuse. Always get a receipt.
This study is based on exact dollar amounts from the Internal Revenue Service, making it an accurate look at giving in America. For more information on how the data was compiled click here.
Do you give to charity? How do you decide how much to give? Is your giving in line with the results of this study?