The 6 Most Generous States in America

Giving to charity is part of the American tradition. These states top the nation by one measure of charitable giving.

May 29, 2013 at 2:01PM

Tragedy has always inspired Americans to give their support to those in need. The devastating tornado that hit the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore earlier this month is just the latest example of how natural disasters and other catastrophic events draw in charitable support from people seeking to lend their aid, with tonight's benefit concert and telethon to broadcast on NBC adding to the influx of donations that charities have already seen in the past week.

Although Americans across the nation are generous in their giving, it's still interesting to see which states see the most charitable activity. One simple way of looking at generosity would be simply to look at total giving, as a study last year from The Chronicle of Philanthropy did in its analysis of 2008 IRS data. But another way to look at the question is to examine the percentage of tax returns filed in each state that claim a deduction for charitable giving, and the Tax Foundation looked at that question in its analysis of more-recent 2011 IRS data. Let's take a look at the six states that had the highest percentages of tax returns claiming charitable deductions, also including information from The Chronicle of Philanthropy's study about total and median contribution levels to see how they compare.

Generous States

Coin images courtesy U.S. Mint.

6. Virginia
In Virginia, 32.5% of all tax returns included a charitable deduction. The state made total contributions of $4.2 billion, amounting to a median amount of $2,790 per taxpayer. One big loss for the state's charitable community will come from the winding-down of the Freddie Mac Foundation, which expects to distribute all of its assets by the end of 2014 in connection with the conservatorship of Freddie Mac (NASDAQOTCBB:FMCC).

5. Minnesota
Among Minnesotans, 32.7% claimed a charitable deduction on their tax returns. With median contributions of $2,213 per taxpayer, Minnesota gave a total of $2.6 billion. Corporate giving in Minnesota is also a high priority, with foundations associated with 3M and US Bancorp (NYSE:USB) among many with annual giving amounts of $10 million or more. US Bancorp recently started accepting donations at its ATMs for Oklahoma-directed efforts of the American Red Cross.

4. Utah
Utah boasted the fourth-highest percentage of returns, including a deduction for charitable giving at 33.1%. The Chronicle of Philanthropy found that Utah residents boasted the highest percentage of discretionary income devoted to charitable giving, at 10.6%. Median contributions of $5,255 per taxpayer amounted to total giving of $2.4 billion.

3. Connecticut
Connecticut weighed in with 35.9% of taxpayers claiming a charitable deduction. Total contributions of $2.3 billion reflected relatively low median contributions of $1,916 per taxpayer. With General Electric (NYSE:GE) having its corporate headquarters within the state, the GE Foundation represents a huge influence on philanthropic activity both inside Connecticut and across the nation. GE and the foundation also stepped up with donations of medical equipment to one Oklahoma City-area hospital to help handle the influx of patients injured in the Oklahoma tornado.

2. New Jersey
Among New Jersey taxpayers, 36% deducted charitable donations in 2011. State residents gave $4.5 billion, with the typical taxpayer contributing $2,181. Among corporate donors, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, named after one of the founders of Johnson & Johnson, and Merck's (NYSE:MRK) foundation both have an important impact on the state's charitable activity. Merck gave out almost $1.3 billion in cash and products during 2011 in efforts to get its medications into the hands of those who otherwise couldn't afford them.

1. Maryland
Maryland topped the list with a whopping 40.1% of all tax returns including a deduction for charitable donations. Median contributions of $2,969 led to total giving of $3.9 billion. Numerous private foundations help in the charitable efforts of the state, with a broad-based set of organizations providing support for a large number of different initiatives and charitable missions.

One key to keep in mind
It's reasonable to argue that this measure of generosity among states is unfair because of the nature of the charitable deduction. In order to deduct donations to charity, you have to itemize your deductions; those who take the standard deduction instead won't get included in these percentages even if they made charitable gifts. Indeed, among these states, only Virginia managed to crack the top 10 on The Chronicle of Philanthropy's overall list. Yet many of the states on this list have relatively high state income and property taxes, which are also deductible items and make it more likely that taxpayers will itemize deductions rather than taking the standard deduction.

Merck has done a solid job with its charitable giving, but this titan of the pharmaceutical industry stumbled into 2013 and continues to battle patent expirations and pipeline problems. Is Merck still a solid dividend play, or should investors be looking elsewhere? In a premium research report on Merck, The Fool tackles all of the company's moving parts, its major market opportunities, and reasons to both buy and sell. To find out more click here to claim your copy today.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool recommends 3M and Johnson & Johnson. The Motley Fool owns shares of General Electric and Johnson & Johnson. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.

Compare Brokers