Maj. Kelly English, with the Salvation Army, says the spirit of giving and volunteerism in Albany is the greatest he’s seen in any of the states he’s served. A recent report by the Chronicle of Philanthropy states that the Albany community is the eighth largest charitable giver nationally, in proportion to discretionary income.
ALBANY, Ga. — Perhaps it’s because so many here need help, or maybe it derives from the area’s wide-spread religious faith. Whatever the reason, people in Albany are ready to — and do — give.
According to a recent edition of Chronicle of Philanthropy, a guide for nonprofit organizations, fund raisers, grant makers and others involved in the philanthropic enterprise, metro Albany has been found to be the most generous community in Georgia when it comes to charitable giving. In fact, only seven cities in the nation were seen to be giving more than Albany’s median 8.4 percent of discretionary income.
“I’m really not surprised,” said Bob Hutchinson, director of operations for the Albany Boys and Girls Clubs. “Like most nonprofits, we’d like to be doing better, but most folks who are able to give are giving. We depend on the community for help and we’re grateful they’re coming through for us.”
Hutchinson said that money from corporations and the federal government were down, as well as “pass-through” money — funds from the national office. There is apprehension, too, regarding the looming “fiscal cliff” crisis in Washington, which has nonprofits awaiting inevitable cuts and the effects that would follow sequestration.
“Things will probably get worse before they get better,” Hutchinson said, “but individual giving is still pretty good.”
The special report, “How America Gives,” was released in August and showed the region of Southern states outranking the three other U.S. regions with 5.2 percent of discretionary income donated. In comparison, the Northeast, Midwest and West gave 4-4.5 percent. However, when religious giving is taken from the picture, Southerners drop to the bottom with 0.9 percent versus the best showing of 1.4 percent in the Northeast.
Maj. Kelly English has served throughout the South with the Salvation Army, he said, coming here in June from Chattanooga. He’s never seen the likes of the generosity here.
“It’s the best I’ve seen anywhere,” English said, “especially for volunteering. When you volunteer your time and effort, it’s as good as giving money.”
According to English, donations dropped off for a while, but as Christmas nears they’re picking up again.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy website, www.philanthropy.com, broke the giving down by a number of factors, including total income of the givers and even by political leaning of individual states. Overall, “red” — Republican-leaning — states gave more. In fact, Utah led the pack, followed by seven mostly Southern states, before the red streak ended. All but one of 12 lowest-giving states were “blue,” or Democratic-leaning.
While the study found America’s richest to give more in absolute amounts, it was not the case as to percentage of their incomes. According to the Chronicle, of the top 1,000 ZIP codes that give the biggest share of income, only nine are among the nation’s 1,000 richest ZIP codes. In city after city, the low-income residents out-gave the rich. When large numbers of rich people live in one neighborhood, the giving dropped even lower, the study found.
According to Chronicle of Philanthropy sources, the report is based on exact dollar amounts released by the Internal Revenue Service showing charitable deductions claimed by American taxpayers in 2008. Only those reporting incomes of $50,000 or more were considered in the study. To determine individual “discretionary incomes,” certain expenditures, including median housing costs for the areas considered, tuition and fees, student loan interests and others were deducted from the taxpayers’ “adjusted gross incomes.”