The Catalogue of Philanthropy has released the latest version of its "Generosity Index," which rates each state according to how giving its citizens are, taking into account not only how much they contribute, but also what they have. It used data on average adjusted gross incomes and the value of itemized charitable donations reported to the Internal Revenue Service on 2003 tax returns.

Here are the results. The 10 top states, starting with the most generous, are:

  • Mississippi
  • Arkansas
  • South Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Tennessee
  • Alabama
  • Louisiana
  • Utah
  • South Carolina
  • West Virginia

The 10 bottom states, starting with the least generous, are:

  • New Hampshire
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • Rhode Island
  • Wisconsin
  • Connecticut
  • Minnesota
  • Colorado
  • Hawaii
  • Michigan

Hold those horses!
But according to an Associated Press article, there are some who dispute those results: "[A] study by the Boston Foundation concluded that the index presents an undeserved image of New England as a region made up of Yankee skinflints. 'If everyone in Massachusetts gave 100 times as much to charity as we do today and everything else remains the same, we wouldn't get above the bottom half of the chart,' said David Trueblood, a spokesman for the foundation. 'And no matter what Mississippi did, it couldn't fall below 22nd or 23rd.'"

Another study found that "individuals in New England give less, on average, to charity than people in other regions but that the percentage of New Englanders who do contribute is higher than the national average."

The various results are interesting, but not too much more than that. If you're not satisfied with your state's ranking, consider contributing more to boost its standing -- and urging your neighbors to do the same.

One good way to do good in the world is to participate in our ninth annual Foolanthropy charity drive. As we've done for years now, we're raising money together to support five impressive organizations. And we're doing so in a Foolish way. Just as The Motley Fool is made up of tens of thousands of people who are interested in improving their financial position, Foolanthropy is all about thousands of people banding together to improve the world, by sharing some of their financial success with others.

Mind the numbers
Good Fools look for solid numbers when they study companies. Maybe you're drawn to PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP) because, among other things, it has increased its dividend by 18% per year for the past three years. (If you're looking for dividends, grab a free trial of our Income Investor newsletter. After being in print for more than two years, it's beating the S&P 500, and about 18 of its picks sport returns above 20%, with more than 10 topping 30%.)

Maybe you're impressed by Starbucks' (NASDAQ:SBUX) revenue and profit growth of more than 20% in fiscal 2005. Maybe you've been wowed by the way teen clothier Deb Shops (NASDAQ:DEBS) boosted its profit margin by a whopping 130 basis points (that's 1.3%, to those in the know). Perhaps you've been impressed with how you gained more than 70% in American Express (NYSE:AXP) stock over the past four years, or how you nearly doubled your money in Altria (NYSE:MO) stock (with dividends reinvested in both).

You get the idea. We Fools like strong financial performance.

That's why many Foolanthropic endeavors have appealed to us. Consider, for example, Heifer International. For every dollar spent on fundraising, Heifer conservatively estimates a return of $4. That's pretty good, eh? It invests a dollar and gets back more than four! Better still, Heifer recipients commit to "pass on" their gift to others in need, thus spreading self-reliance even further. (For example, recipients of an ox will give away its first female offspring.) On average, there are six pass-ons after each original gift animal, an amazing ripple effect that potentially lifts around 30 to 36 more people out of poverty. Again, impressive numbers. Lift one family out of poverty, and you help six more families.

Then there's Mercy Corps, which offers programs in health care, education, agriculture, disaster relief, and economic development to 7 million people in 35 countries: "Every dollar you give helps us secure $20.89 in donated food and other critical supplies." If only every dollar we invested in our stocks returned $20 to us!

We've chosen our charities carefully, by looking for organizations that do great work very effectively.

Join us!
If your interest is piqued, please take a few minutes to at least learn about this year's featured organizations. (They'll truly be delighted just to have more people familiar with them and their work.) And then consider joining us in contributing a little something to them. Together, we've raised more than $2 million in our past campaigns -- thanks to the participation of many Fools. Let's see the great state of Fooldom up there among the 10 most generous.

Learn more about Foolanthropy here.

Selena Maranjian 's favorite discussion boards include Book Club , Eclectic Library, and Card & Board Games. She owns shares of PepsiCo. Formore about Selena, viewher bio and her profile. You might also be interested in these books she has written or co-written:The Motley Fool Money GuideandThe Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.