The Catalogue for Philanthropy just released their 2005 Charitable Giving Index. Some of the data is intriquing. Their methodology is outlined at their website. (http://www.catalogueforphilanthropy.org/cfp/generosity_index/faq.html)
Using published data of individual tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service, we compare the rank of each state’s average adjusted gross income (AAGI) to the rank of each state’s average itemized charitable deductions (AICD). The arithmetical differences between these two rankings are then themselves ranked, resulting in the Generosity Index rank.
The top three states in adjusted gross income were Connecticut, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. How do they fare in the Generosity Index? Connecticut ranked 45th, New Jersey 48th, and Massachusetts ranked 49th when the study compared per capita giving versus income.
According to this index you might want to set up your charitable outreach somewhere other than New Hampshire. The Granite State’s ranks of 8th wealthiest and 48th in giving combined to land them at number 50 on the list.
Conversely, the most generous states were not the ones with the most income or national prestige. Mississippi ranks dead last in average adjusted gross income in the United States. But the giving rank (a ranking of the average donations) for Mississippians was 6th in the country! That level of generosity put Mississippi at the top of the list. The top ten states in generosity after Mississippi were Arkansas, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Utah, South Carolina, and West Virginia.
The top 25 most generous states are part of the political red sea that is the butt of national jokes. After you sort through the red neck jokes and wisecracks about the plains and tasteless humor about the South you will find the most generous people in the nation. I knew that before I read this index. My state of Texas fared quite well by finishing as the 12th most generous state but with the 4th highest giving rank.
The first of the “Blue” states to show up was New York at number 26 in the Generosity Index. I don’t want to make this another Red/Blue harangue but the take away for me is that stereotypes don’t work. The idea that the blue states are generally more socially conscious and caring because of their ideology simply doesn’t play out in reality. Many of the most giving people are the ones ridiculed and demeaned by the media and cultural elite.
Not much has changed in the past couple of millenia as Jesus observed in the Gospel of Mark.
He continued teaching. “Watch out for the religion scholars. They love to walk around in academic gowns, preening in the radiance of public flattery, basking in prominent positions, sitting at the head table at every church function. And all the time they are exploiting the weak and helpless. The longer their prayers, the worse they get. But they’ll pay for it in the end.”
Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins–a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford–she gave her all.” Mark 12 The Message
The average church attendee gives a paltry 2.6% of total income according to the Christian research group empty tomb, inc. So before we get too carried away by state pride or red state power we might meditate a bit on the Gospel of Mark. If evangelical Christians alone would simply tithe we could generate another 80 billion per year. Can you imagine what could be done with that kind of money? Many of us are generous at Christmas. But the truth of God’s Word is sobering.
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. Luke 12 NIV
Followers of Jesus need to step it up year round. I have been given much. I can do more. I suspect you can as well.