How Charitable Is Your City?

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — If you live in Washington D.C., take this opportunity to pat yourself on the back.

Households in the nation’s capital give an average of $169 every month to charitable organizations, and the city boasts having more than 7,000 nonprofits in operation, which helped earn its title as the most charitable city in America, according to a new study.

Our partners at Bundle.com ranked the 100 most populous cities in America by how much they give back to charity. While it is certainly difficult to quantify all acts of charity (shouldn’t it count if you help a blind person cross the street or volunteer at a soup kitchen?), Bundle focused on the financial side.

The study ranks each of the cities based on four criteria, including how many donations residents made online and how much those donations were for, as well as the total amount of money given to political, religious and social service organizations by credit card per household, and finally, the number of nonprofit organizations currently registered in the city. The researchers then took a weighted average of these factors to rank the cities.

By and large, the study found that cities on the east coast tended to be more charitable, with places like D.C, Atlanta and Raleigh all ranking among the top ten. In most cases, these cities not only gave to charity more often, but they also gave more money than average each time they donated.

In contrast, cities in the western part of the country were generally less generous. California alone is home to five of the 10 least charitable cities in the country, and states like Nevada and Arizona did not fare much better.

Of course, there were exceptions.

The second most charitable city on the list was Seattle. According to Bundle, there were approximately 165 donations given online per every 1,000 people living in Seattle in 2009, the third highest in the country. Moreover, households here gave a very generous $170 each month (on average) to charitable organizations, also the third most in the country.

On the other end of the spectrum, there were cities like Hialeah, Florida, the least charitable city on the list, where there were just 14.7 donations per 1,000 residents in 2009, with the average household giving just $23 a month to charitable organizations.

That said, many of the cities that rank near the bottom of the list, including Detroit, Buffalo and Hialeah, have been hit hard by the economic downturn in recent years and residents there are likely working harder just to get by.

To put the data together, Bundle relied on several sources. The site partnered with CitiGroup to find the average amount that people gave to charitable organizations based on credit card transactions between July 2009 and June of this year. Next, the site gathered data from Convio, a popular fundraising tool for nonprofits, to find how much and how often consumers donated online throughout 2009. Finally, Bundle used Manta.com, which provides information about companies across the country, to determine the number of registered non-profit organization in each of the 100 cities.

Aside from establishing the most and least generous regions, Bundle’s data also provides a unique window in the best times of year for charities. The study proves once and for all that Christmas is indeed the time of year when Americans are most generous, as residents in cities across the country give more to charitable organizations in November and December than any other time of year. But it turns out the least charitable time of year is just a couple months later, in February.

Take Washington D.C., for example. While households in the nation’s capital gave an average of $235 to charity in December, they gave just $142 in February.

For a closer look at the worst offenders on this list, check out MainStreet’s breakdown of the 10 least charitable cities in America.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.

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