The generosity of America's biggest cities
The top 50 most populated areas in the U.S. in terms of the median percent of their income given. Larger circles = higher percentage of income given. Click a circle for details.
(Data: The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Data visualization: Todd Vachon for NewsWorks)

When it comes to generosity, the greater Philadelphia area is below average.

That's according to a new study from the Chronicle of Philanthropy, which examines charitable giving across the country.

The metropolitan area anchored by the fifth-largest city in the nation ranks ninth in terms total contributions.

That's a hefty $3 billion pumped into the nonprofit sector. But when you look at the the Philly-Camden-Wilmington metro area on a per capita basis, the region fares poorly compared with more giving areas of the country.

"Philadelphians are not as generous as we like to say we are," says Bob Evans, the managing director of EHL Consulting Group, which works with nonprofits on fundraising efforts and strategic planning.

The new Chronicle of Philanthropy rankings are based on 2008 data from the Internal Revenue Service. The list is dominated by Utah and the Bible Belt. Residents of the Salt Lake City metro, the area leading the pack, gave to charity 9 cents of every dollar of income. Residents of the Philadelphia area gave 4 cents. That compares with a national average of 4.7 percent.

"People who are steeped in faith, regardless of their religion, are the most generous people in America," Evans says.

"Each area in the country has its own distinct culture of giving," says Peter Frumkin, faculty director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for High Impact Philanthropy.

Frumkin says leaders in the nonprofit sector take these rankings seriously, trying to rally donors around a wounded sense of civic pride. Still, he says, the outsized influence of religious giving can stilt the data.

"The biggest proportion of giving is giving at churches and congregations," Frumkin says. "So what the study is really tracking, in many ways, is levels of religious commitment and participation."

Indeed, when you strip out religious giving from the latest numbers, Pennsylvania shoots up from 40th to fourth in states where people give the most, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy's analysis.

EHL's Evans says the nonprofit sector in greater Philadelphia is much more important to the economy than it has ever been.

Still, he says, there's plenty of room for more giving.

This report was done in collaboration with Generocity.org, an online platform to help people stay informed, connected, and involved with civic engagement in the Philadelphia region.

Data visualization by Todd Vachon