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How America Gives

August 30, 2012

What your geographic location says about your charitable giving tendencies.

That is the title of a special study released by the Chronicle of Philanthropy last week and it is very telling for New England and the country in general. Where people live has a great influence on how much they give. The study describes how tax breaks, politics and faith all have an impact on generosity.

In the 50 largest cities in America, the people of Salt Lake City give an average of 9% of their disposable income. Providence ranks last - #50 out of 50 – and Boston is #49 with Hartford, CT coming in at #48. No other New England city is among the top donating cities. What does this say for charitable fundraising among nonprofits here in N.E.?

Although nonprofits frequently chase foundations and corporations for support, individual giving from ordinary people comprises the majority of charitable giving. But, if individuals in Providence and Boston donate only an average of 2.8% of their income (after excluding taxes, housing and other necessities), does this doom the average charity’s fundraising efforts?

The Chronicle publication contained an article specific to Rhode Island. The article noted the movement of big businesses out of the state taking both the corporate donation and the highly paid employees with them. It also noted that the Providence metropolitan area has 1.3 charities per 1,000 residents while the national average is 1.1. Many people close to the R.I. nonprofit community have been calling for a consolidation among agencies. However, these efforts move at a snail’s pace and all too frequently by the time an agency looks for a merger partner, it is on life support and represents nothing but a liability to a potential partner.

The publication notes the impact that taxation and spending appears to have on charitable giving. The majority of my clients are now funded through a variety of state contracts with either state funds or passed through federal funds. Have the Rhode Island citizens relinquished their charitable decisions to the government? I personally don’t know, what do you think?

I once had a board member of a very old charitable organization that is now funded by the state indicate that they did not want to contribute to the organization when the state was providing insufficient funding for the organization to run their programs effectively. In their mind, the state had assumed the responsibility for the mission of the organization and the state should fund it properly. The board member truly believed that the state was trying to minimize its financial support in the hopes that the charity would supplement the state’s support with charitable solicitations and the board member looked upon this as a form of double taxation. Could it be that most Rhode Islander’s feel this way and this is why the state is near the bottom in charitable giving?

As one of the largest CPA firms in Boston, KLR is unique because they service over 220 not-for-profit organizations with compliance and consulting services. We have extensive experience helping Nonprofit organizations regarding boards, and board responsibilities, charitable contributions, taxes and 990 filing requirements.

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