A lot of factors go into charity work, and a lot of factors go into evaluating charities. A recent study of the 30 largest charity markets–that is, the cities that have the largest philanthropic effect–has some interesting information to share. The 30 markets, which were reviewed by charity watchdog Charity Navigator, account for 65% of the total revenue and 66% of spending out of the charities that the website monitors. That means that this survey covered about two-thirds of American charities.
The survey looked at several categories. Market size is based on how many charities there are in that market. Not surprisingly, New York City came in first with 932 charities, while Colorado Springs and Indianapolis have only 49 each. That’s not to say that all those NYC charities are equal. They have to compete for the same people, though NYC is a city that spends on lot on charity, with donations topping $4.6 million. Miami’s donors are more generous, though, topping $5 million.
Of the markets reviewed, Indianapolis charities spend the least on actual programs–only 79% of their budget–while Detroit charities spend the most, coming in at 85%. Unfortunately, Detroit charities also have some of the slowest growth in the country. Accountability and transparency are buzzwords of late in the philanthropic world, and Charity Navigator has long been concerned with these factors. Hipster haven Portland is among the most transparent markets in the country, while its northern neighbor Seattle, home to numerous security-conscious tech firms, is among the least transparent markets.
There’s a lot of useful information in the study. In general, the success of a given charity is partly environmental: the more in line a given organization is with the attitudes and concerns of its home town, the more likely it is to succeed there, and to branch out into other locations.