2020’s Most Generous U.S. Cities

Volunteers feeding the hungry at a soup kitchen

Amid this Season of Giving, generosity is needed more than ever with COVID-19 destroying the economic security of so many households.

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

  1. City Rankings
  2. Highlights and Lowlights
  3. Methodology
  4. Why This Study Matters

City Rankings 

See how each city fared in our ranking:

CityOverall Score
1Minneapolis, MN59.31
2St. Paul, MN53.16
3Portland, OR52.88
4Salt Lake City, UT52.14
5Vancouver, WA50.77
6Boston, MA50.34
7Seattle, WA47.95
8Washington, DC47.43
9Tacoma, WA45.68
10Baltimore, MD44.03
11Rochester, NY43.75
12Pittsburgh, PA43.16
13Milwaukee, WI41.73
14Providence, RI41.35
15Anaheim, CA41.25
16Overland Park, KS41.07
17Cincinnati, OH40.25
18Yonkers, NY40.24
19St. Louis, MO39.87
20Oakland, CA37.62
21Cleveland, OH37.50
22Kansas City, MO37.22
23Raleigh, NC37.10
24St. Petersburg, FL36.61
25Indianapolis, IN36.46
26Chesapeake, VA36.36
27Huntington Beach, CA36.12
28San Francisco, CA36.11
29Norfolk, VA34.96
30Denver, CO34.44
31Fremont, CA34.23
32Mesa, AZ33.54
33Philadelphia, PA33.39
34Newport News, VA32.85
35Peoria, AZ32.68
36Detroit, MI32.01
37Buffalo, NY31.88
38Santa Ana, CA31.88
39Aurora, CO31.53
40Scottsdale, AZ31.25
41Aurora, IL31.18
42Newark, NJ30.69
43Fort Lauderdale, FL30.25
44New York, NY30.24
45Memphis, TN29.89
46Glendale, AZ29.72
47Tampa, FL29.61
48Birmingham, AL29.55
49Oceanside, CA29.45
50San Jose, CA29.39
51Louisville, KY29.27
52Jacksonville, FL29.12
53Nashville, TN29.08
54Irving, TX28.32
55Plano, TX28.29
56Columbus, OH28.28
57Sacramento, CA27.53
58Grand Prairie, TX27.47
59Frisco, TX27.42
60Jersey City, NJ27.25
61Gilbert, AZ27.07
62Chicago, IL26.85
63Tempe, AZ26.80
64San Bernardino, CA26.76
65Houston, TX26.29
66Atlanta, GA25.92
67Virginia Beach, VA25.88
68Orlando, FL25.68
69McKinney, TX25.66
70Charlotte, NC25.66
71Ontario, CA25.34
72Irvine, CA25.02
73Riverside, CA24.12
74Worcester, MA23.92
75Garland, TX23.68
76Arlington, TX23.59
77Long Beach, CA23.50
78Austin, TX23.37
79Chandler, AZ23.05
80Phoenix, AZ22.56
81San Diego, CA22.41
82Chula Vista, CA22.19
83New Orleans, LA22.02
84Miami, FL21.92
85Anchorage, AK21.46
86Oklahoma City, OK21.43
87Glendale, CA21.27
88Los Angeles, CA20.98
89Elk Grove, CA20.93
90Santa Rosa, CA20.66
91Fort Worth, TX20.64
92Dallas, TX19.94
93Salem, OR17.83
94Richmond, VA17.66
95Santa Clarita, CA17.47
96Grand Rapids, MI16.94
97Fontana, CA16.83
98Honolulu, HI16.81
99Rancho Cucamonga, CA16.29
100Madison, WI15.80
101Hialeah, FL15.39
102Tallahassee, FL15.38
103Toledo, OH15.26
104Spokane, WA14.86
105Moreno Valley, CA14.30
106Little Rock, AR13.66
107Las Vegas, NV13.22
108North Las Vegas, NV12.89
109Reno, NV12.31
110Akron, OH12.05
111San Antonio, TX12.01
112Winston-Salem, NC11.95
113Chattanooga, TN11.84
114Des Moines, IA11.64
115Modesto, CA11.57
116Port St. Lucie, FL11.37
117Oxnard, CA11.05
118Fort Wayne, IN10.89
119Lincoln, NE10.84
120Henderson, NV10.78
121Tucson, AZ10.72
122Durham, NC10.68
123Stockton, CA10.66
124Baton Rouge, LA10.29
125Knoxville, TN10.22
126Huntsville, AL10.00
127Omaha, NE10.00
128Boise City, ID8.99
129Albuquerque, NM8.96
130Sioux Falls, SD8.95
131Lexington, KY8.82
132Mobile, AL8.78
133Montgomery, AL8.55
134Augusta, GA8.41
135Cape Coral, FL8.25
136Colorado Springs, CO8.15
137Amarillo, TX7.51
138Bakersfield, CA7.43
139Tulsa, OK7.29
140Shreveport, LA7.24
141Greensboro, NC6.61
142Fresno, CA6.07
143Columbus, GA5.93
144Lubbock, TX5.65
145Corpus Christi, TX5.51
146Wichita, KS5.30
147Fayetteville, NC4.54
148El Paso, TX2.71
149Brownsville, TX2.07
150Laredo, TX0.86
Infographic detailing which states will be most impacted by the Biden Climate Plan. Factors include how many people use eco-friendly commuting options,

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 inhospitality

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: 

FactorWeightingMin ValueMax Value
Share of Residents Who Volunteer8.3318.7046.30
Share of Residents Who Do Favors for Neighbors8.3336.0068.70
Share of Residents Who Do Something Positive for the Neighborhood8.3310.9032.90
Share of Residents Who Participate in Local Groups or Organizations8.3314.0043.40
Share of Residents Who Donate $25 or More to Charity8.3336.7074.10
Nonprofit Organizations per 100,000 Residents8.332.9016.60
Shelter Beds per 100,000 Residents8.330.00940.43
Housing Beds per 100,000 Residents8.330.002443.48
Soup Kitchens per 100,000 Residents8.330.003.34
Animal Shelters per 100,000 Residents8.330.3839.67
Donation Centers per 100,000 Residents8.330.007.03
Food Banks per 100,000 Residents8.330.1819.92

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

Richie Bernardo

Richie Bernardo

Richie Bernardo is a managing editor who previously wrote about personal finance and immigration. Philippine-born, Kansas City-bred, and barbecue-fed, Richie enjoys baking, deal hunting, and binging “Ancient Aliens.”