Not all charitably minded American households and individuals have the same giving priorities. A study released Tuesday by Fidelity Charitable, a donor-advised fund sponsor, found a big difference in the types of causes supported in different areas of the U.S.
Researchers analyzed 2018 giving data from 30 metropolitan areas to understand the full landscape of American philanthropy, how the priorities, concerns and values of donors across the country stacked up. Cities were ranked by percentage of Fidelity Charitable giving accounts that supported a given sector in a region.
The study found that surges and drops in its metro area rankings were often tied to how donors responded to news-making topics in their communities, noting that giving is strongly focused on local issues and concerns.
Take human services, which is the most heavily supported sector among Fidelity Charitable donors, according to the study. Four new cities entered the top 10 — Seattle; Charlotte, North Carolina; Philadelphia; and Washington, D.C. — as donors responded to natural disasters.
Portland, Oregon, rose to second place in the ranking for supporting the environment-and-animals sector. This was perhaps not surprising as the media focused on a landmark lawsuit — Juliana v. United States — filed in Oregon by 21 students against the federal government over its climate change policies.
And the nation’s capital surged in the international affairs sector ranking, influenced by world events, such as the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and the administration’s immigration policies at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the study.
The study noted that 49% of all grant dollars recommended by Fidelity Charitable account holders were sent to nonprofits within the donor’s home state in 2018. On average, 42% of grant dollars stayed in the donor’s local metropolitan area.
“As the nation’s largest grant maker, we seek to understand the complete landscape of American giving — the priorities, concerns and values of donors across the country — to create a better-informed donor community,” Fidelity Charitable’s president, Pamela Norley, said in a statement.
By examining the eight charitable sectors defined by the Internal Revenue Service, Fidelity Charitable’s analysis highlighted philanthropic identities for the country’s different regions.
Support for education was particularly strong in the Northeast, religious organizations ranked high in the South and Midwest and the West was disproportionately prominent in its support of the environment and animals. Cities with a more global perspective were active in the international affairs sector.