December 14, 2016

Editorial: The least charitable city in the country?

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Only 17 days remain in Giving Season, which is critical to many nonprofit institutions.

Whether people feel more charitable during the holiday season or give as their yearly finances come into sharper focus, the final three months of the year, and more specifically the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, local institutions rely on this period of the year to fund their mission.

A 2012 GuideStar survey found that 50.5 percent of organizations reported they received the majority of their donations in the fourth quarter of the year.

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, one study “found that their respondents reported giving about 24 percent of their annual total between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.”

In addition, “According to the Winter 2011 issue of the Nonprofit Fundraising Survey, over half of the nonprofit organizations queried reported that they received over a quarter of their contributions between October and December, with 16 percent of all organizations receiving over half their year’s total contributions during those same months.”

In this light, and with the city of Worcester home to so many deserving nonprofits, it came to us as a shock when a recent survey claimed Worcester was the least charitable city in the United States.

On Monday, the financial website WalletHub released its survey “2016s Most Sinful Cities in America” ranking of the largest 150 cities in America.

Worcester finished in the middle of the pack, 75th, but driving that ranking was a top-five “Averice Rank,” which is a combination of three factors, casinos per capita, percentage of residents with a gambling disorder and charitable deductions as a percentage of income.

In addition to the rank of 75, WalletHub claimed Worcester ranked dead last in charitable giving as a percentage of income.

The data upon which that conclusion was made was the result of a study performed by The Chronicle of Philanthropy. The study used census, IRS and other data from 2012, the last full year for which IRS data was available.

It turns out labeling the city of Worcester the least charitable in the country, as a percentage of income, is not correct.

According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s How America Gives survey, Worcester County’s Giving Ratio, “the percentage of AGI given to charity as determined using the charitable deductions reported on the income-tax forms,” was 1.73 percent.

On the county level, only Bristol (1.52 percent) gave less than Worcester County.

A closer look at the data paints a very different picture.

By ZIP code, people in five of the ten Worcester ZIP code areas donated more than the state average of 2.43 percent of their adjusted gross income, and only one ZIP code (01606) was less than 2 percent.

Worcester’s range ran from 1.86 percent (01606) to 5.4 percent (01608).

What drags down the county, it seems, is the suburban towns. Of 13 ZIP codes of towns neighboring Worcester just two, West Boylston and Leicester, donate above the county level. Eleven donate below the county average, all 13 below the state average.

Residents of Worcester should be comforted by the fact the city is, indeed, not the least charitable one in the country.

At the same time, all residents of Worcester County should know that there’s room for improvement. In other words, give more!

In these last 17 days of Giving Season, we urge you to support the nonprofit of your choice.

ZIP Code City/Town Giving Ratio
01608 Worcester 5.40%
01610 Worcester 3.51%
01609 Worcester 2.99%
01607 Worcester 2.82%
01605 Worcester 2.54%
01603 Worcester 2.24%
01604 Worcester 2.23%
01602 Worcester 2.19%
01583 West Boylston 1.96%
01606 Worcester 1.86%
01611 Leicester 1.79%
01505 Boylston 1.65%
01520 Holden 1.65%
01612 Paxton 1.63%
01501 Auburn 1.54%
01524 Leicester 1.44%
01527 Millbury 1.36%
01519 Grafton 1.36%
01590 Sutton 1.34%
01545 Shrewsbury 1.33%
01536 North Grafton 1.31%
01543 Rutland 1.30%

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