Disable all preview features

America's Most Charitable Cities

Charity Navigator Study Ranks Nonprofit Sectors for 30 U.S. Cities


GLEN ROCK, N.J., June 13, 2017 – When it comes to charity, not all U.S. cities are equal, according to a newly released study conducted by Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity evaluator. The study shows that San Diego's philanthropic community leads the nation, Houston's charities raise more money, and Cleveland's charities are richer. 

In its study, Charity Navigator compared the median performance and size of the largest nonprofits in the 30 largest metropolitan markets (Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Colorado Springs, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis/ St. Paul, Nashville, New York City, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Washington, DC).  Those markets account for 62% of the 8,219 charities evaluated by Charity Navigator.  The study revealed that regional factors, such as the cost of living, a market’s maturity and a city’s tendency to support one or two specialized causes, greatly influence the ability of the charities in each city to raise money, manage costs as well as their adherence to good governance policies and procedures. 

In terms of their overall Financial Health and commitment to Accountability & Transparency, the study’s highest rated charitable communities are:

1. San Diego 
(tied for #4 last year)

2. Houston
(#1 last year)

3. St. Louis
(#2 last year)

4. Tampa/ St. Petersburg
(#3 last year)

5. Dallas
(tied for #4 last year)               


“The consistent performance of charities in cities like San Diego and Houston is commendable,” said Michael Thatcher, President & CEO of Charity Navigator. “But our study reveals that it isn’t just a few philanthropic communities that standout. We’ve found that the nonprofit sector throughout America is strong and diverse - a testament to the dedication and hard work of donors and philanthropic leaders across our nation.”

Additional findings from the report include:

  • Market Size: New York City (967 large charities) and D.C. (715) are more crowded and competitive philanthropic markets than Colorado Springs (45) and Orlando (53).
  • CEO Compensation: Charity executives in D.C. ($181,488) and NYC ($176,022) earn considerably more than those in Colorado Springs ($108,229) and Seattle ($113,323).
  • Program Expenses: Orlando’s charities (85%) devote the largest percentage of their spending to their programs and services while Boston charities spend the least (79%).
  • Annual Growth: Charities in Los Angeles are more rapidly expanding their programs (6%) than charities in Indianapolis (1.8%).
  • Level of Contributions: Donors to charities in Houston ($4.3 million), D.C. ($4.0 million) and LA ($4.0 million) are especially generous as these charities report the highest median contributions in the study. Charities in Philadelphia ($2.3 million), Boston ($2.5 million) and Minneapolis /St. Paul ($2.6 million) report the lowest median contributions.
  • Financially Secure: The largest charities in St. Louis are generally richer in working capital and have lower liability to asset ratios than charities in other parts of the country, while charities in Colorado Springs are less financially secure.
  • Accountability & Transparency: Charities in Houston, Phoenix, San Diego, Portland, Kansas City, and Tampa/St. Petersburg earn the highest scores for their commitment to being accountable and transparent while charities in Nashville, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland score the lowest.
  • Financial Health: The largest charities in Cleveland earn higher scores for their overall financial health than those in Colorado Springs.
  • Donor Privacy Policy: Phoenix (59%) has the highest percentage of charities with written donor privacy policies (stating that the charity will not sell, trade or share its donors’ personal information with anyone else, nor send mailings on behalf of other organizations);  Cleveland (29%) has the lowest percentage of charities with such policies.
  • Types of Charities: Tampa/St. Petersburg has more Animal (11%) and Health (19%) charities, Cincinnati has more Arts, Culture and Humanities (23%) charities, Cleveland has more Community Development (19%) charities, Indianapolis has more Education (12%) charities, San Francisco has more Environment (11%) charities, D.C. has more Human & Civil Rights (16%) and Research & Public Policy (11%) charities, St. Louis has more Human Services (46%) charities, Colorado Springs has more International (20%) and Religion (36%) charities than the other cities in the study.

Visit our site for a complete list of results by city as well as a slideshow of the top 10 markets.

About Charity Navigator
Charity Navigator is the largest expert charity evaluator in America. The organization makes philanthropy easier for all. It does this by providing data on 1.7 million nonprofits and in-depth analysis of over 8,500 charities. More than 7 million people - including donors, nonprofit leaders, researchers, the media, and policymakers - access Charity Navigator’s free tools and evaluations annually. Charity Navigator, a 501 (c) (3) public charity itself, depends on support from individuals, corporations, and foundations that believe it provides a much-needed service to America's nonprofit sector. To learn more, visit www.charitynavigator.org.

Media Contact

Sandra Miniutti

201.818.1288 x105 | media@charitynavigator.org 


Join Our Mailing List

Join over 400,000 other informed givers and get updates on charity ratings, new features, hot topics, and tips for donating.