Philanthropic Giving Levels in Connecticut Among Nation’s Lowest As Percentage of Income

Connecticut ranked 47th among the 50 states in philanthropic giving as a percentage of income, with a “giving ratio” of 2.4 percent, 25 percent lower than the national average, according to a new analysis by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. The giving ratio is the total of a locality’s charitable contributions as a share of its total adjusted gross income. Among the states in the region, Vermont ranked 45th, Massachusetts was 46th, and Rhode Island was 50th.

Nationally, the Chronicle report “How America Gives” highlighted the growing influence of the affluent in charitable giving across the country.  Although charitable donations rose for the third straight year in 2016, reaching $390.1 billion, according to "Giving USA," the Chronicle study indicates the sources of those donations are changing.

Donations from households earning $200,000 or more now total 52 percent of all itemized contributions. In the early 2000s, that number was consistently in the 30s, the Chronicle reported.  The report raises questions about the traditional habit of charitable donations among middle and low income individuals lessening, perhaps as a lingering after-effect of the recession.

Connecticut ranked 20th in total giving, despite having the 29th largest population among the states, with average giving per itemizer of $5,229, which placed the state squarely in the middle, ranking 25th.

The Chronicle provides an analysis of the giving patterns of Americans who earn $50,000 or more annually and who itemize charitable deductions on their income-tax returns. The itemized giving of these taxpayers, in 2015, represents nearly 80 percent of all individual charitable contributions and offers the best possible view into giving at local and regional levels, the Chronicle explains.

Nationally, only 24 percent of taxpayers reported a charitable gift, according to the Chronicle analysis of Internal Revenue Service data. That’s down from 2000 to 2006, years when that figure routinely reached 30 or 31 percent.  The Chronicle’s conclusion: “The number of households making room in their budgets for charitable giving is shrinking.”

In all but six states – including Connecticut – the percentage of those in the $200,000 plus bracket increased in 2015, the most recent year in which data was available. Only in Connecticut, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, and Rhode Island was the percentage of those giving in that earnings bracket less that year, compared with 2012.

In Connecticut, individuals earning more than $200,000 gave 66.4 percent of all Connecticut giving, down 1.7 percent from 2012, according to the Chronicle analysis.  The portion of all givers in this income bracket in Connecticut down 0.2 percent while the giving per itemizer is down 20.6 percent.  In looking at the state’s major metropolitan areas, greater Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven, the analysis round that giving rates for taxpayers at four income levels fell below the average for the size group in each of the metropolitan areas.

The Chronicle reports that “Charity leaders say government funding has dwindled as corporate support has grown finicky. At the same time, America’s wealth has become more concentrated among the wealthy.”  The publication noted that “groups traditionally fueled by small gifts are also jumping into big-gift fundraising,” adding that “Middle-class woes and the country’s widening income disparity are undoubtedly partly to blame. But some fear that organizations are contributing to the problem by courting the well-heeled and slighting the small donor.”

The giving percentage varied across the state:  the Fairfield County giving ratio was 2.8%, New Haven County and Litchfield counties 2.1%, Hartford County 1.9%, New London County 1.8%, Middlesex and Tolland Counties 1.7%, and Windham County 1.6%.