This feature offers the day’s most interesting and important story on nonprofits from the world’s media. For a full survey of media coverage of topics relating to nonprofits, philanthropy, volunteering, and civil society, go to the Hauser Center’s news blog, Nonprofit News & Comment.
Today’s story — National Public Radio’s report on an important study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy — analyzes the geography of charitable giving in the United States. The chief finding, that the poorest Americans are more generous than the wealthiest is hardly new: scholars have been arguing about the “U-shaped curve” in giving for decades. What is unique is the extraordinary size of the database on which this and other findings are based.
“Study Reveals The Geography of Charitable Giving.” By Pam Fessler. Morning Edition/National Public Radio. August 20, 2012. Ever wonder how charitable the people are who live in your state or community? It turns out that lower-income people tend to donate a much bigger share of their discretionary incomes than wealthier people do. And rich people are more generous when they live among those who aren’t so rich. That’s according to a new study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, which breaks charitable giving down by ZIP code. It found that generosity varies greatly from one region of the country to another. Take the 20020 ZIP code area in Southeast Washington, D.C. It includes the Fairlawn and Anacostia neighborhoods, which are among the city’s poorest. Many in the area turn to charity for help. One of those charities is a nonprofit called Bread for the City, where people line up daily for help with housing, health care, legal aid and food. But in this neighborhood, where the need is so great, charitable giving is also relatively high. Using Internal Revenue Service data, the Chronicle of Philanthropy found that the median household contribution is almost 19 percent of discretionary income — that’s money left over after taxes and living expenses. This rate of giving is four times the national average. The Chronicle found a similar pattern across the nation. Households with incomes of $50,000-$75,000 donate on average 7.6 percent of their discretionary income. That’s compared with about 4 percent for those with incomes of $200,000 or more. It turns out that giving by high-income residents in this area is about 12 percent of discretionary income, a much higher rate than in D.C.’s richest neighborhoods. The Chronicle found that it’s the same across the country. High-income people who live in economically diverse neighborhoods give more on average than high-income people who live in wealthier neighborhoods. Paul Piff, a social psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, says that’s consistent with what he’s found in years of research on income and giving. “The more wealth you have, the more focused on your own self and your own needs you become, and the less attuned to the needs of other people you also become,” he says. Piff says it’s not that rich people aren’t generous. They’re often just isolated. They don’t see a lot of poor people in their daily lives. So what does this mean for charities? Bread for the City’s Valentine says the big bucks are still in the wealthiest neighborhoods. The key is to get those who live there to become more attuned to those in need. That means having nonprofit clients tell their stories more often, either online or in person. It also means providing more volunteer opportunities, so people can see the need firsthand.
For the Chronicle’s report, go to How America Gives.