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Maryland Ranks High in Charitable Giving

Potomac residents, however, donate a smaller percentage of income to charity than the average state resident.

Maryland ranks 11th in the nation in terms of how much its residents donate of their discretionary income to charity, according to an analysis released Monday by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Utah was listed as the top state, with residents on average giving 10.6 percent of their discretionary income to charity. In Maryland, people give on average 5.7 percent of discretionary income, according to the analysis, based on IRS records.

Potomac's total contributions to charity came in at $139.7 million for 2008, the most recent year for which IRS data was available, but residents donate a smaller percentage of their income than the state’s average. Potomac residents donated $8,695, on average, or 4.4 percent of their discretionary income, according to the study’s analytics map.

Potomac also came in below the Montgomery County average -- 5.8 percent -- when it comes to percentage of income given.

But with a median income of $195,505, much higher than the national median income of $54,783 and the state median income of $52,482, Potomac residents contributed more money to charity than the state and national average.

Maryland’s median contribution was $2,969, and the national median contribution was $2,564.

The top five jurisdictions in the study were: Utah; Washington, DC;  Mississippi; Alabama; and Tennessee.

In the Sykesville/Eldersburg area, residents give 3.6 percent of their discretionary income to charity, slightly lower than the national average of 4.7 percent and the state average of 5.7 percent, according to a map of giving across the country published by the Chronicle.

The median yearly contribution to charity in Sykesville is $2,412, compared to $2,564 nationally and $2,969 in Maryland. 

Maryland’s ranking was met with praise by nonprofit experts and advocates in the state.

“I think Maryland is a very, very generous state, I do,” said Elise Lee, chief development officer of the United Way of Central Maryland.

“I think that the need is greater than it ever has been,” she added. “People that haven’t struggled in the past are faced with challenges they’ve never faced-with the rising costs of food, health care, housing.

“For those that can give, I think that Maryland continues to step up to the plate," Lee said.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy also analyzed giving compared to a state’s political affiliation. Among its major findings: Those in predominantly conservative states that are known as deeply religious donate a bigger share of their discretionary income than those in predominantly more liberal states.

Experts said that could have as much to do with tax incentives as religion.

Donors in Southern states give about 5.2 percent of their discretionary income to charity compared to the Northeast, which gives 4.1 percent, according to the analysis.

The Chronicle reported that one reason for the discrepancy in giving between red states and blue states is rooted in government policies.

Ten states—Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia—currently have tax credit programs to encourage charitable giving to schools.

The programs allow individuals or corporations to donate a part of their owed income taxes to private schools that issue scholarships to K-12 students, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Robert Grimm Jr., director at the Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership at the University of Maryland at College Park, cautioned against drawing too many conclusions from the data on blue and red states and giving.

The analysis looks at how states voted in the past election and compares it with giving patterns, but it isn’t able to drill down to the political affiliation of individual donors, said Grimm.

“I would say one has to be cautious how this report makes that connection,” Grimm said.

Grimm said Maryland’s ranking is “pretty strong,” which he attributed to it being a state that has good engagement in religion and volunteering, combined with high education levels.

He pointed to data from VolunteeringinAmerica, a site that publishes trends on volunteering, which says the largest percentage of Marylanders—32.7 percent—volunteered through a religious organization in 2008 to 2010.

According to a Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life poll, 56 percent of those surveyed in Maryland/D.C. said in 2009 that religion is very important in their lives, the same as the national average.

“There’s a strong obligation, particularly in certain religions, to give,” Grimm said. “Religions have the potential [to say], ‘Your sins may be forgiven.’ " 

For a map of giving across the country, click here.

Have you donated to charity? What inspired you? Tell us about it in comments. 

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