Amid this Season of Giving, generosity is needed more than ever with COVID-19 destroying the economic security of so many households.
- Food pantries have seen miles-long lines of cars, with many of the hungry needing help for the first time.
- Nonprofits have fewer volunteers to serve and deliver the food, as many of their MVVs (most valuable volunteers) are older or in other high-risk groups.
- Homeless camps have grown much larger as company furloughs become permanent and people no longer can pay for their housing.
Despite these tough times, Americans are stepping up. Philanthropy News Digest reports that “total donations made through June equaled 47.3% of total giving for all of 2019.”
But not all parts of the country give in equal measure.
To rank the Most Generous Cities, LawnStarter compared the 150 biggest U.S. cities across 12 key indicators of philanthropic behavior, from volunteering rates to the prevalence of food banks.
Where did your city land on our list?
Check out our ranking, the highlights and lowlights, and expert commentary below.
Table of Contents
See how each city fared in our ranking:
|2||St. Paul, MN||53.16|
|4||Salt Lake City, UT||52.14|
|16||Overland Park, KS||41.07|
|19||St. Louis, MO||39.87|
|22||Kansas City, MO||37.22|
|24||St. Petersburg, FL||36.61|
|27||Huntington Beach, CA||36.12|
|28||San Francisco, CA||36.11|
|34||Newport News, VA||32.85|
|38||Santa Ana, CA||31.88|
|43||Fort Lauderdale, FL||30.25|
|44||New York, NY||30.24|
|50||San Jose, CA||29.39|
|58||Grand Prairie, TX||27.47|
|60||Jersey City, NJ||27.25|
|64||San Bernardino, CA||26.76|
|67||Virginia Beach, VA||25.88|
|77||Long Beach, CA||23.50|
|81||San Diego, CA||22.41|
|82||Chula Vista, CA||22.19|
|83||New Orleans, LA||22.02|
|86||Oklahoma City, OK||21.43|
|88||Los Angeles, CA||20.98|
|89||Elk Grove, CA||20.93|
|90||Santa Rosa, CA||20.66|
|91||Fort Worth, TX||20.64|
|95||Santa Clarita, CA||17.47|
|96||Grand Rapids, MI||16.94|
|99||Rancho Cucamonga, CA||16.29|
|105||Moreno Valley, CA||14.30|
|106||Little Rock, AR||13.66|
|107||Las Vegas, NV||13.22|
|108||North Las Vegas, NV||12.89|
|111||San Antonio, TX||12.01|
|114||Des Moines, IA||11.64|
|116||Port St. Lucie, FL||11.37|
|118||Fort Wayne, IN||10.89|
|124||Baton Rouge, LA||10.29|
|128||Boise City, ID||8.99|
|130||Sioux Falls, SD||8.95|
|135||Cape Coral, FL||8.25|
|136||Colorado Springs, CO||8.15|
|145||Corpus Christi, TX||5.51|
|148||El Paso, TX||2.71|
Highlights and Lowlights
Northwest is best
With four of their cities in the top 10 of our ranking, the states of Washington and Oregon dominate our list. While cities like Portland and Seattle have solid numbers of volunteers and participation in local organizations, part of their high scores could be attributed to need.
It’s no secret that the West Coast has a large homeless population, and with housing prices continuing to soar in the region, it’s doubtful the need will dissipate anytime soon.
Big cities, big needs
In general, larger cities rank higher on our list than smaller and midsize cities. Boston and Washington, for example, have higher volunteering rates and more nonprofit organizations.
Plus, with increasing economic inequality, there’s often a greater need in larger cities for shelter beds, soup kitchens and food banks. Generosity tends to sprout where it’s most needed.
Southern cities tended to do relatively poorly in our ranking. This is mostly due to the lack of available services. Cities like Lubbock, Texas, and Columbus, Georgia, have comparatively fewer numbers of donation centers, food banks and soup kitchens.
That’s not to say the residents of these Southern cities aren’t generous, but the lack of services cuts down on volunteer opportunities and on ways to address community needs.
Using the most recently available data, LawnStarter compared the generosity of the 150 biggest U.S. cities across 12 key indicators of philanthropic behavior:
|Factor||Weighting||Min Value||Max Value|
|Share of Residents Who Volunteer||8.33||18.70||46.30|
|Share of Residents Who Do Favors for Neighbors||8.33||36.00||68.70|
|Share of Residents Who Do Something Positive for the Neighborhood||8.33||10.90||32.90|
|Share of Residents Who Participate in Local Groups or Organizations||8.33||14.00||43.40|
|Share of Residents Who Donate $25 or More to Charity||8.33||36.70||74.10|
|Nonprofit Organizations per 100,000 Residents||8.33||2.90||16.60|
|Shelter Beds per 100,000 Residents||8.33||0.00||940.43|
|Housing Beds per 100,000 Residents||8.33||0.00||2443.48|
|Soup Kitchens per 100,000 Residents||8.33||0.00||3.34|
|Animal Shelters per 100,000 Residents||8.33||0.38||39.67|
|Donation Centers per 100,000 Residents||8.33||0.00||7.03|
|Food Banks per 100,000 Residents||8.33||0.18||19.92|
We ranked the cities in descending order based on their individual score totals. The city that scored the highest ranked No. 1, or “most generous.”
Data for the first five metrics listed above was not available for 51 cities in our sample. However, none of these cities were penalized in our ranking for the lack of available data.
Sources: AmeriCorps, Governing, Soup Kitchen 411 Inc., U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Yelp
Why This Study Matters
In the weeks before the holidays, we are giving gifts — maybe more homemade and certainly more bought online this year — and likely taking special care of family members and friends who are out of work.
But generosity isn’t seasonal, and the need is greater now because of the pandemic. After months of joblessness, food banks are swamped, some nonprofits are starved for volunteers, and homeless people need a hand up (which is more life-changing than a hand out).
The need for food, shelter, and, yes, generosity, is expected to grow more dire as pandemic-related unemployment benefits expire for 14 million Americans at the end of December.
Wherever your city landed on our list of the Most Generous Cities, you can make a difference in your community now and in the weeks and months ahead.
LawnStarter’s co-founders instill in employees the Power of 1. One person, raising the bar by 1%, makes a difference. If everyone exercises the Power of 1 in his or her community, all of the cities in our listing will be more generous this time next year.
Main Photo Credit: Shutterstock