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Sep-27-2013 21:43printcomments

Study: Salem is Among Nation's Most Generous Cities

All data was obtained from the Corporation for National & Community Service and the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Oregon capitol from the air
Photo by Tim King

(SALEM) - Salem was recently ranked the #11 most generous city in the nation, according to a study on volunteerism and charitable giving by consumer finance site NerdWallet. Thought you might be interested in sharing this good news with your readers and congratulating your community. Some of Salem's impressive numbers include:

  • 37.3% of residents volunteer
  • 38.2 average hours volunteered
  • 5.1% of average income donated

The U.S. is a generous country – the World Giving Index ranks the United States as the fifth most generous in the world. We wanted to see which places in the U.S. were the most generous by looking at the following factors.

  1. Is there a culture of volunteerism in the area?  We looked at the percentage of residents that volunteered to see how many people in the city were volunteering.
  2. Do volunteers make strong commitments to their service?  We looked at the number of hours volunteered in a year to see how much residents were volunteering.
  3. Do residents donate money as well as time?  We looked at the median percentage of income that was donated to see how much people were contributing financially.

Most Generous Places

1. Provo, UT

Provo ranks first on our list and first in all three variables, making it the most generous metropolitan in the United States. Over 58 percent of all residents volunteered in the past calendar year, and they each volunteered almost 150 hours. Additionally, they donated 13.9 percent of their income every year. The city is home to Brigham Young University, which encourages all students to volunteer with the Center for Service and Learning.

2. Ogden, UT

Ogden, located north of Salt Lake City on the banks of the Great Salt Lake, also ranks well above average for all three factors. Residents volunteer an average of 101.8 hours per year, and 52.2 percent of the metropolitan volunteered in the past year. Residents also donate 10.4 percent of their median income. Ogden is the home of Weber State University, which engages students in finding volunteer opportunities with a Volunteer Fair hosted by the Center for Community Engaged Learning.

 3. Salt Lake City, UT

Another Utah city rounds out our top three. Salt Lake City sees 33.2 percent of its residents volunteering over 50 hours per week. Residents also donate 10.4 percent of their median income to charity every year. The University of Utah provides a broad range of volunteer opportunities for its students, including programs for volunteering internationally and in the health sciences.

 4. Iowa City, IA

Iowa City, located in eastern Iowa, sees 49.2 percent of its residents volunteer every year. Residents volunteer an average of 57.6 hours per year and donate 4.0 percent of their median income to charity. The city is home to the University of Iowa, which challenges its students to give back to the community through its Community-Based Learning Program which has a large volunteer component.

 5. Boulder, CO

Boulder is located 25 miles north of Denver and is the highest-ranking Colorado city on our list. Boulder residents give plenty of their time to charity, with 47.1 percent of all residents volunteering an average of 51.8 hours per year. Residents also donate 3.8 percent of their median income to charity. The University of Colorado in Boulder has a Volunteer Resource Center to help students find great volunteering opportunities around the city.

 6. Jackson, MS

Jackson is the most populous city in Mississippi and its residents are among the most generous in the nation. 32.2 percent of its residents volunteered in the past year, and they volunteered an average of 45 hours. Residents additionally donated 8.1 percent of their median income to charity. Mississippi College’s Alumni Association provides volunteering opportunities for alumni and students alike in Jackson, and Millsaps College makes community service a key component of the 1 Campus, 1 Community program.

 7. Fort Collins, CO

Fort Collins is located 57 miles north of Denver on the banks of the Cache La Poudre River. Fort Collins residents are generous with their time, with 40.5 percent of the residents volunteering an average of 53.5 hours. Residents also donate 4.5 percent of their median income to charity. Fort Collins is home to Colorado State University, which promotes student engagement in the community with Student Leadership, Involvement and Community Engagement (SLiCE).

 8. Oxnard, CA

Oxnard lies 35 miles north of Los Angeles on the California coast. Oxnard’s residents volunteer a whopping 62.8 hours per year and 37.3 percent of residents have volunteered. Oxnard also sees its residents donating 4.2 percent of their income to charity.

 9. Boise, ID

Boise is the capital and most populous city in Idaho. 35.4 percent of Boise’s residents have volunteered, and they volunteer an average of 52.6 hours per year. Additionally, Boise residents donate 5.4 percent of their income to charity per year. Boise State University encourages students to get involved in their community with campus programs, partnerships and volunteer opportunities in the Student Involvement and Leadership Center.

10. Asheville, NC

Asheville is the largest city in western North Carolina. 32.3 percent of the residents have volunteered a median of 37.8 hours per year. Asheville’s residents have also donated a median 6.4 percent of their income to charity. The University of North Carolina at Asheville inspires students to give back to the community with the Key Center for Community Citizenship and Service-Learning to give students volunteering opportunities.

Rank Metropolitan Volunteer Rates Volunteer Hours Per Year Percentage Income Donated (Median) Overall Score
1 Provo, UT 58.5% 147.5 13.9% 100
2 Ogden, UT 52.2% 101.8 10.4% 73.8
3 Salt Lake City, UT 33.2% 51.9 9.0% 43.3
4 Iowa City, IA 49.1% 57.6 4.0% 41.7
5 Boulder, CO 47.1% 51.8 3.8% 38.3
6 Jackson, MS 32.2% 45.0 8.1% 38.2
7 Fort Collins, CO 40.5% 53.5 4.5% 35.9
8 Oxnard, CA 37.3% 62.8 4.2% 34.9
9 Boise, ID 35.4% 52.6 5.4% 34.6
10 Asheville, NC 32.3% 37.8 6.4% 31.5
11 Salem, OR 37.3% 38.2 5.1% 31.4
12 Colorado Springs, CO 32.6% 50.2 5.0% 30.7
13 Grand Rapids, MI 36.7% 33.9 5.3% 30.5
14 Chattanooga, TN 29.0% 32.1 7.3% 30.3
15 Des Moines, IA 39.2% 41.9 3.8% 29.9
16 Greenville, SC 30.1% 31.0 6.8% 29.4
17 Washington, DC 31.5% 42.1 5.5% 29.3
18 Cedar Rapids, IA 35.6% 48.0 3.9% 29.2
19 Charlotte, NC 30.2% 41.5 5.8% 29.1
20 Lancaster, PA 30.5% 43.2 5.4% 28.6


The overall score for most generous places was made using the following measures:

  1. Volunteer rates: the percentage of residents in the city that volunteered in the past year
  2. Volunteer hours: the hours a resident volunteered per year
  3. Percentage of median income donated: this was calculated by analyzing the median contribution and the median discretionary income

All data was obtained from the Corporation for National & Community Service and the Chronicle of Philanthropy. We analyzed 366 places.



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Joe Bob October 1, 2013 1:09 am (Pacific time)

I wonder where underemployment and unemployment fit into this for Salem? I've lived in Keizer for almost 6 years after moving from the midwest. I left a job in retail management making close to $20 an hour and relocated with my wife who was recruited out here. In that time, as I'm over qualified to work in Salem's low wage retail environment I've spent countless hours volunteering my time with non profit organizations like Oregon PeaceWorks, art associations and several churches. In that time I know that a lot of the people I volunteer with are either struggling to get work or work part time in retail and restaurant work. It's facinating to me to see all the wealthy cities on that list and then Salem who has an ungodly high underemployment rate that has been in existance for over 40 years. I know that we give more than 5% of our income to local charities (non church related), but we've honestly never lived in such an impoverished city before...and Salemites all think the rest of the US lives like this, it's pretty sad.

Chris P September 29, 2013 1:47 pm (Pacific time)

This is good news. I wonder what the per capita donation figures are city by city. If you took the total $ donated divided by the number of residents. I'd like to see us in the top 10 tho, that would be a good goal to shoot for, for now. #1 would be the ultimate aim. I would also like to know if they're counting churches as charities. That's not really a fair comparison because Mormons are forced to donate to the church I believe, they don't do it on their own.

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